Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tea Market at Wukuaishi

I had pictured the wholesale tea market as one of these enormous multistory buildings crowded with stalls or a maze of streets crowded with little tea shops. The reality was much smaller and quieter; a few shops along a couple of streets near Wukuaishi. You can buy loose or packaged tea as well as various other plants meant for steeping and tea paraphernalia. If you are looking for local product, there are shops selling Sichuanese tea from Mengdingshan, as well as quite a few selling Yunnan Pu'er. Gate with teacup on top:



The shops have lots of prepackaged tea on display but unless you know the teas very well don't pass up the chance to taste. Most shops had big freezers full of tea leaves, some fresh. Any shop will infuse something for you to sample.

I was on the lookout for a good summer drinking tea and asked for 20 rmb worth of chrysanthemum (菊花) tea. 20 rmb bought a bag of chrysanthemum flowers the size of a travel pillow, which was much more than I expected.

Tea here is much cheaper than elsewhere, but like most wholesale markets it takes some patience and effort to find the really good products and good deals. It's best for visitors who know a little Chinese and can bargain, and have the time to taste and comparison shop.



There is a very cool shop named Tea Joy (天月茶市场) that sells all kinds of tea service products. They have tea sets made from Yixing clay in Jiangsu as well as ceramic sets. The shop attendants here were very sweet and patiently explained the products, though nobody spoke English. They also invited me to drink tea, but I had already sampled too much at the other shops. You could get a nice ceramic tea set for about Y200 (or an elaborate one for Y500). The clay sets had a wider range of prices, but were on average a little less expensive. If I was going to buy gifts to bring home I would definitely come back here.



Location:

西南茶市场、 五块石. NW of main train station, in wholesale market neverland. (Food, cigarettes, toys, etc.) The 59 bus comes right here if you are coming from the southwest; get off at Wukuaishi stop when you see the tea market gate. Almost end of bus line.

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