I went to Saiwan with B, a HK tea friend, today, to find teas, old teas.
Saiwan is even further West than Sheung Wan, where Bonham Strand is, and is home to many, many, many stores that sell various kinds of Chinese delicacy, dried seafood, medicine, and that kind of thing. There are basically lots of old stores in that area. I’ve never been there until yesterday. It’s a very very interesting area to visit.
The teashop in question looks rather old. There are more in that area, many of them are “upstairs” teashops that only cater to wholesale businesses. In fact, right above this teashop is one such wholesale store, and according to the guy at the teashop downstairs, those wholesalers do big business. Each order is something like 100 jian of tea or more, and their annual business, per wholesaler, can be something like $3 million USD. Not a small sum at all.
The teas we ended up buying were of the broken cakes variety. I got some broken GYGs, vintage unknown. They tasted good enough, and similar to the one sample I tried in Beijing. I think the guy who gave me that bit also got it from these people. It’s quite a bargain and I’m really quite happy with it.
More interestingly, we also tried a poo-poo puerh. This is tea that is, basically, the feces of bugs that eat teas. In fact, the name of the tea given by this teashop is exactly that — “bug shit tea”. Not exactly an elegant name, by any stretch of imagination. Yet, this is really quite a novelty item.
The bug shit tea is basically collected as a by-product of regular storage of tea in large quantities in a wetter storage facility. Wet-storage facility is generally located on a mountain slope in a basement or some such, which means greater level of natural moisture and probably better retention of such moisture. The bugs, I guess, grow naturally in such an environment. When they take out the tongs of tea to sell, they take apart the packaging for the tong of tea, and brush off all the dust and what not. When they do that, however, in the bottom of the tong there will be collected some bug droppings. This is what they collect for this tea. They are really tiny pellets, each about… half an mm in diameter? Black, smelling like old puerh, and unremarkable. When you brew it, you do it using about half a teaspoon of tea, put it in one of those mesh filters that you use to filter your tea, and pour water. The water will drip through the filter very very slowly…. eventually going through.
The liquor is VERY thick. It’s quite strong in taste initially, yielding a rather aromatic tea with smooth texture. The taste is clean. It doesn’t last too many infusions. No, I don’t have any stomach problems right now, many hours after the fact. The tea is really quite interesting. The mom of the family that owns this shop is now 87, and she drinks this everyday. These are truly old tea hands…. with experience that none of us can ever match.
Sorry, no pictures. I wasn’t prepared with a camera.
We ended up with a good bounty of loose puerh of various kinds, and B also bought a few oz of the poo-poo tea. We then went to the BTH to sit and chat for a little more. It was, all in all, quite a fun day.