Tea, bubbles and massages

The traditional Chinese tea preparation ritual involves rinsing and then stewing loose-leaf tea. Photo by Lara Berendt

The traditional Chinese tea preparation ritual involves rinsing and then stewing loose-leaf tea. Photo by Lara Berendt

There’s a number of things the Chinese do really well and which I enjoyed during my time there such as their rich tradition of tea making, which a fellow student described in a story about Chinese youth turning their backs on the country’s tea culture.

Tea has been ingrained in Chinese society for millennia. But as Western beverages infiltrate China’s urban centers, younger consumers increasingly opt for sodas, processed bottled teas and coffee, leaving this tea tradition, with its rich history, a fading art form—the domain of middle-aged to elderly Chinese, as well as ex-military Westerners who can’t shake a habit brewed in the freezing cold of military training exercises.

I, too, became affected by modern trends and though I frequented a quaint tea house outside our Beijing hotel, where the friendly proprietor would go through an elaborate process for each cup of tea, rinsing tea leaves with boiling water before brewing a small cup of liquid gold, I also became a bit of a fan of the more contemporary phenomenon of bubble tea.

Eventually it got to the stage I’d be nagging the interpreter to find the nearest bubble tea stall so I could get my fix of tapioca balls. During a late night walk through Beijing, sans interpreter, I was having so little success finding somewhere selling bubble tea that I ended up getting directions from a lady who initially offered me a massage.

I hope I didn’t upset her feelings by declining her invitation but at the time I really just felt like having some bubble tea–what’s a tea addict to do?

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