I walked to Tianshan Tea City from my place today, looking for some cheap teaware to use in Shanghai. It’s a 20 minute walk if I don’t walk too fast, and I can make it there in 15 if I walk really briskly. It’s a bad combination, I know. Luckily, the place is not big enough to hold a lot of interest for repeated visits. It’s two floors plus some ground floor open stores. In total I think there are about 80 stores of various kinds. Interestingly enough, there are more puerh stores here than last time, and that was only two months ago.
I had set out to look for some cheap teaware to use in Shanghai, since I didn’t want to bring more stuff than I was already carrying. However, I got sidetracked into a Keemun store. They sell basically only Keemun, with some other teas as well (some unknown green, plus some Taiwan oolong — a mixed bag). I was attracted by the Keemun, because she had all the grades, and they were clearly marked.
I ended up tasting two, a Haoya (she said it was B when I asked), and a tea she called the “Li Cha”, which is a new style Keemun which is not broken up — it’s instead using whole buds. Keemun, as most of you know, is the sort of classic Hongcha (red tea). It’s got a distinctive flavour, and the leaves are usually quite fine and cut up… is it broken orange pekoe? Anyway, the Li Cha is not like that. Instead, it’s buddy, looking a little like a red version of biluochun. I think I’ve seen stuff like this before called by different names, but didn’t know it’s from the same region as your classic Keemun.
The Haoya is quite nice, although slightly rough on the tongue. The Li Cha is better, but it lacks that Keemun flavour I was looking for. I want something that I can use as a sort of benchmark to judge other Keemuns by, and I figured this is a good place to stay (I must confess I know little about Keemuns in general). I sat there for a while longer, tried their green tea, and had a cooked tuo that she bought for 200 RMB (way overpriced — she wasn’t selling the tea, just drinking). I then bought some of the Haoya and left. She offered me a 30% discount without me prompting it, which was nice.
I wandered around the market for a little longer, looking for a gaiwan and a few cups. The gaiwans are quite nice — I think BBB is right in saying that the teaware here is nicer. The nice gaiwans, of course, weren’t the cheapest, but they were tempting. I had to leave to go to another place, so I never finished shopping for teaware… having just bought one tea tray and no cups/gaiwans to use it for. I’ll either come back here or go to Jiuxing, the other tea market which is a bit farther away. Maybe I’ll go next weekend or, if I have time, sometime during the week.
On my way out, I noticed another store that specializes in Keemuns. I should go check that place out.