Today I went to a place called Chamate, which is a chain of teahouses that got started, I think, in Shanghai. They are a franchise, and now have about 30 of them across China, mostly in coastal major cities. I went there once with my girlfriend in March when I visited, and decided to go again. I originally wanted to go somewhere with a little more atmosphere (rather than someplace in a mall), but the air quality is low today, and it’s really not very inspiring for going out.
There are a number of teas on offer at Chamate. They serve some teas gongfu style (costing the most). They also serve teas in more conventional pots, and those cost less. There are greens, floral, oolongs, and some cooked puerh. From the selection, you’d think this place is a Taiwanese joint, as they serve a number of Taiwan style teas. The market is obviously urban locals, and some tourists. They also have food…. but I didn’t have any.
Like last time, I ordered the Dongding Lao Chawang (Dongding Old Tea King). Supposedly 10 years in age.
This is a picture of the whole setup – I forgot to put something in there for scale, but the drinking cup is about an inch wide. Not small.
With the ubiquitous Kamjove water boiler in the back. Those guys are the most successful business coming out of the whole tea industry, I swear.
Anyway, it’s a big pot for one person, but since they also give you lots of tea, I filled it up about 1/3 and kept the rest. The tea is roasted, of course. The taste is a little interesting. The first impression is an overwhelming taste of charcoal — very heavily fired, with a strong charcoal taste and not a very strong aroma. Not the best. Then, however, something interesting happens — after I swallow there’s an incredible sense of sweetness that emerges from the back of the throat. This is not quite just the “gan” of a tea that you usually get, but it actually felt really, really sweet. Sugar sweet. I have to say I never experienced that drinking teas before. The sweetness sensation lasted about three infusions.
There is a hint of sourness in infusions 2 and 3, although it’s not strong at all, indicating decent storage. However, I think it’s not quite 10 years, as the charcoal taste should have subsided by now, or, it was reroasted recently and not been put away long enough before it got to my hands. I would’ve preferred it with a little less roasting and a little more aromatic.
The tea was always smooth, never quite rough or edgy. Typically Taiwan, in the sense that aftertaste, aside from the incredible sweetness, is mostly lacking. Decent cha qi, although that could just be an overdose of caffeine as I drank basically two people’s worth of tea.
I lasted about 7 infusions before deciding it was too much and I had to go. The price was not cheap — 90 RMB, about 11 USD, for a pot of tea. Then again, I knew it’s not cheap. I don’t think I’ll pay that much though for some of their other teas. It’s just not worth that much, since I can probably get them at Maliandao for at most 1/3 of the price. For a place to sit after a busy day shopping on Wangfujing though, I suppose it’s not so bad.