Ambassadors, cabinet members, & Presidents all visit this Chinese tea institution.
The Chinese cultural experience cannot be complete without a tea drinking. A few friends and I went to the famous Lao She Tea House (老舍茶館) in Beijing one evening. We wanted to see how authentic tea fared with the tea we drank in the United States. I walked into the restaurant with low expectations and left that evening with a newfound appreciation for tea brewing.
Because most people had finished eating their meals and were watching Chinese opera upstairs, we were one of the only customers remaining in the restaurant. Even so, the entertainers put on live music and performed small puppet shows, making us feel welcome. Our waiter was then able to give us his undivided attention. Seeing that we were foreigners, he proceeded to teach us the tea etiquette at the dinner table.
Unlike the simple tea bags I brewed at home, a single jasmine flower pod rested inside my teacup. The girls, on the other hand, each had a chrysanthemum flower in theirs. Pouring the water in the direction outside of the table meant that you were gesturing for your guests to leave. Therefore, our waiter poured the boiling water clockwise around the pods and they majestically blossomed slowly before our eyes.
He then taught us two correct methods to drink tea with one or two hands, respectively. We were also informed that pointing the teapot at someone after pouring it was a sign of trouble – it signified a dysfunctional relationship between the two. He also gave us a rundown of the health benefits of each of our teas: improving skin tone, clearing our airways, muscle relaxation, and other positive attributes.
Tea drinking was amongst my favorite cultural experiences in China. Lao She Tea House is a must-visit for those in the Beijing area. It’s hard to imagine anyone who would not find this his or her cup of tea, pun intended. It is located near the Qian Men (前門) subway stop, just one block away from Tiananmen Square.
Lao She Tea House is located: 3 Qianmen west street, Xuanwu District, Beijing, China