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Beijing pictures, Luxueya

Luxueya, more than any other brand, really brought Fujian's tea culture to the capital. They did this by putting their shop on Maliandao street, the largest collection of tea shops in northern China.

However, back in 1997 when their Beijing branch first opened, Maliandao was hardly a major shopping area. But after 10 years of hard work and development, Luxueya has grown significantly along with the tea street itself.

All of Luxueya teas come from the Taimu Mountains back in Fujian province. Their plantation, which covers several mountains, produces organic green tea, white tea, jasmine tea, and black tea. Many of Luxueya's patent tea have won gold prizes in domestic and international exhibitions.

The most famous tea at the shop is white tea, which is uncured and unfermented tea. Prices vary according to their type. For example, 150 g new Bai Mu Dan (white tea) is priced at RMB 88, while 370 g 2-year-old Shou Mei (white tea) costs RMB 256. If you don't mind having a good packaging, Luxueya carries loose tea for comparatively lower prices.

What I appreciate:
Luxueya tea

What customer appreciate:
Good-quality tea

Beijing pictures, Zheng Fu Cao Tang

When it comes to Zisha, or purple clay teapot, we usually mean a traditional pot made from Yixing clay, and commonly used to brew tea. The name comes from Yixing in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, and the original place of purple clay teapot production.

Zheng Fu Cao Tang is a shop selling various shapes of clay pots made from teapot masters in Yixing.

Entering the shop, I was enthralled by its atmosphere. In the middle of the spacious exhibition room, four deep sofas create cozy place for visitors to rest, with a glass display of precious teapots in the center. Not far away, a traditional rosewood tea table holds a tea set on top while four wooden chair on four sides. Yellow lights, which casted shadows on clay pots lined up on shelves, produced an odd atmosphere.

Some of the teapots are symbols of blessing, like the fish-shaped teapots for wealth or the fruit-shaped pots for good harvest. The shop also carries a clay pot made by Master Wang Xiaolong. Due to its complex technique, the pot is only for display purposes.

Prices are from RMB 80 to over thousands, according to different skill levels involved.

What I appreciate:
Welcoming environment

What customer appreciate:
High-quality clay pot

Beijing pictures, Tea bestowed by the Goddess of Mercy

Tieguanyin tea, originated from Anxi in south China's Fujian province, is a famous Oolong tea named after the Buddhist saint Guanyin, or Goddess of Mercy. Like other Oolong teas, Tieguanyin¡¯s taste comes in between green tea and black tea.

Tian Ran Xiang teashop is an exclusive seller of Tieguanyin tea on Beijing' Maliandao street. The shop owner, Ms Sun, is a born in the town famous for this type of tea. When I visited the shop, she was drinking Tieguanyin tea, saying it helped her lose weight.

Back in Sun's hometown, there are many legend behind this tea. The most popular legend is about a farmer called Wei Yin. Wei voluntarily cleaned a temple in which had an iron statue of Guanyin. Touched by his kind heart, Guanyin appeared in his dream, telling him of a cave behind the temple, where a treasure awaited him. That treasure was the Tieguanyin tree.

At Tian Ran Xiang, I saw various colorful packages of Tieguanyin. Ms Sun also showed me some loose Tieguanyin. The leaves are rolled into small tubes and then dried, for simple storage and consumption. According to different quality, tea price varies from RMB 30 per 500g to over thousand yuan per 500g.

You can bargain with the owner, but she can't speak much English. So be sure to bring pen and paper.

What I appreciate:
Various kinds of Tieguanyin

What Customer Appreciate:
Large selection of Tieguanyin at various levels of prices

Beijing pictures, Tao Cha Ju Tea shop

In tea shops, when you see tea compressed into a variety of shapes, like cakes, bowls, or brick, the tea is undoubtedly Pu'er tea from Yunnan. You may find it strange. But it's to aid in transportation, as Pu'er tea comes from the high mountains.

Tao Cha Ju is filled with a collection of Pu'er cakes on the shelves. The shop owner, Mr Xiao, told me that all his teas are collected from ancient tea trees in natural forests of Yunnan. The 100% natural Pu'er tea helps aid digestion, reduce the risk of cancer, and lower cholesterol.

Pu'er tea has a very unique taste. It was said to have developed because transportation in ancient times took weeks until it reached town. During this period, the tea leaves would begin to ferment in the humidity and release a strong, fragrant aroma.

Thus, Pu'er tea became unique in that it tastes better after fermenting. This is in direct contrast with other teas, which are best drank soon after it's dried. Some connoisseurs would to pay millions for 100-year-old Pu'er teas.

Though 100-year-old Pu'er teas are almost impossible to find on the market any more, you can still find 2 to 10 year old Pu'er at Mr. Xiao's shop. Price for a round two-year-old Pu'er cakes (357g) is about RMB 150.

What I Appreciate:
Natural Pu'er tea
What customer appreciate:
Good price and service

Beijing pictures, Hanyilou Tea Shop

Combining Chinese traditional Tea culture with Eastern medicine, Hanyilou shop on Beijing's famous tea street Maliandao carries a series of healthy tea pillows.

Tea pillow has a long history in China. Many Chinese in ancient times made simple tea pillows to treat headache and insomnia.

The shop owner, Mr. Zhang, told me they use natural green tea, Oolong tea, or flower tea. All teas are gathered from in natural tea gardens located above Mount Taimu in Fujian Province, and then used to fill the pillow¡¯s heart.

A fragrant pillow could improve sleep quality, rejuvenate one's mind, and  reduce stress. Prices vary from a small cushion for RMB 118 to an adult pillow at RMB 236.

The shop also displays some cute tea-pet figurines, like the ¡°dragon fish¡± and ¡°two lions fighting for a ball¡±. All these are symbols of blessing in China. Tea lovers like to raise their tea pets on the tea set, by splashing them with extra water used in teas. Due to the special of the materials used, the pets become shinier the more hot tea they absorb. Prices vary from RMB 15 to RMB 50.

What I appreciate:
Healthy tea-pillow

What customer appreciate:
Tea-pillow, green tea, tea pet

Beijing pictures, Dingyun white tea

You may familiar with green tea and red tea, but how about white tea? The best white teas look like tiny white hairs, and give the tea a pale look.

Ding Yun, located on the famou Ma Lian Dao tea street, sells white tea exclusively. The shop owner, Mr Chen, has a huge plantation on the foot of Tai Mu Mountain in Fuding, where they've been growing white tea for 200 years.

When it comes to white tea, Mr Chen could talk forever."There is a fairy tale in my hometown. Long time ago, a girl, named Lan Gu, lived on the foot of Tai Mu mount. One year, an unknown disease killed many children in the village. To save the village, a god told Lan Gu in her dream to pick up the leaves in a cave on Tai Mu Mountain to help the children. The children were then saved. Afterwards, the village started to plan these leaves, which now became the white tea."

Ding Yun carries different types of white tea, such as Bai Hao Yinzhen, Bai Mu Dan and Shou Mei. Bai Hao Yinzhen is widely considered the best among them. All white teas are low in caffeine, and are believed to have good anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities.

The longer preserved white tea has more value. For example, 2004 Bai Hao Yinzhen is sold at RMB 800 per 500g. While 2005 tea costs half the price.

What I Appreciate:
Good white tea

What customer appreciate:
Large selection of different white tea

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Beijing Shopping: Luxueya, more than any other brand, really brought Fujian's tea culture to the capital. They did this by putting their shop on Maliandao street, the largest collection of tea shops in northern China.