Fine leaves flutter in a place of delight

By Dong Fangyu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-08-22 08:16:07

Fine leaves flutter in a place of delight

The three different sets of tea on display. [Photo by Dong Fangyu/China Daily]

As bizarre as it may seem, it is more difficult to find a good teahouse than a good cafe in Beijing, the capital of a country that boasts the world's most refined and time-honored tea culture.

Traditional teahouses that feature a show such as acrobatics or Peking Opera tend to be geared to those seeking a taste of local culture rather than the taste and quality of teas themselves. In addition, teas in high-end tea clubs can be exorbitantly priced and not necessarily that good.

So when I heard about a new teahouse in a five-star hotel recently, I instantly dismissed it as yet more of the same fare. How surprised and delighted I was then, on a visit to this teahouse in the Lido area of Beijing, to be proven wrong.

The teahouse is ensconced in a corner of the majestic lobby of the Nuo Hotel Beijing that is largely given over to Chinese art galleries that display works of popular artists. So when you go in you feel you are blissfully secluded from the troubles of the world.

The name Nuo derives from the Chinese idiom Yin nuo qian jin, meaning "golden promise". Nuo is one of China's first home-grown luxury hotels and endeavors to live up to its promise and compete with top global brands by showing the depth of China's history and cultural heritage. Yuan Teahouse is just one strand in the hotel's efforts to do this.

Even before I arrived at the teahouse, our walk through the lobby took us into a space of Zen-like tranquility. Its graceful interior, soothing background traditional Chinese music and an exquisite petite courtyard all evoke a contemporary interpretation of a teahouse in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Waiting for us was Dai Aiqun, chief consultant of Yuan Teahouse, who took Yuan's team on a tea-finding expedition to mountainous areas across China. "After a lot of research, Nuo signed up its own plantations with locals, and Yuan Teahouse buys teas directly from tea farmers," he says.

Dai is a well-known food critic and tea connoisseur who has published several culinary books, including one called Dance on the Tongue.

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