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As promised, here is the information I have been compiling for the Hutong’s Maliandao Tea Tour (which I sometimes lead.) On the tour we discuss in more detail the tastes and characteristics of tea and the Chinese tea ceremony, while eating an incredible lunch and visiting local family shops.

Buying tea in China can be an overwhelming prospect… where do you start?

Most Chinese teas are grown in Southern provinces; however, large quantities are shipped north to Beijing’s Maliandao Tea Street for purchase and export around the world. Although a lot has changed since the emperors ruled, this tea migration still mimics the journey of the finest teas that traveled from southern plantations to the emperors and on to the Silk Road. Today, Maliandao still houses thousands of tea shops, mostly family-owned, that represent the seven main tea-growing areas in China (Zhèjiāng, Jiāngsū, Fújiàn, Ānhuī, Hénán, Sìchuān, Yúnnán) and vast array of Chinese teas. The street has become a bit more touristy since 2005, but retains its authenticity through being the largest tea distribution center in Northern China.

Tea Basics…
Did you know that all “true” tea comes from the same plant? To call that beverage in your hand ‘tea’, it must come from the camellia sinesis plant. The camellia sinesis plant originated in China, near the base of the Himalayas. India also has a camellia sinesis plant native to their base of the Himalayas. China and India are known for their teas because, like grapes, aspects such as the age and variety of the plant can affect the overall taste. While a tea tree 50-60 years old would be considered “new,” some Chinese tea bushes are over 800 years old, which is why it’s nearly impossible to create a taste similar to that produced by Chinese tea plants. True teas include white, green, oolong, red/black and pu’er. Herbal teas made from ingredients like mint, chamomile, rooibos or mate actually form another category of brewed drink, called a tisane. Although they are commonly referred to as teas, this is an incorrect name in the technical sense.

Soil, climate and variety of plant affect the different overall tastes of the tea leaves, but the most important elements of distinction between types of teas are oxidization and fermentation. Oxidization refers to the amount of time tea leaves are exposed to the air and the process of the leaves turning dark, similar to a cut apple turning brown. Fermentation refers to the decay of the tea leaf and is a process that is continuous after the leaf has been dried.

White Teas
White teas are popular abroad and originated in Fújiàn, China. These teas are made from only one variety of tea plant. They are first oxidized (exposed to the air until the leaves wilt and turn slightly brown) and are left in sun to dry. These teas are light and sweet, and have wide appeal. Often tea drinkers who are turned off by the grassiness of green teas enjoy white tea. It is a common misconception that white teas do not have caffeine. The white tea leaf itself retains more caffeine than other teas that are cooked during processing, but its effect it less strong because the caffeine doesn’t come out while brewing. White tea is becoming famous for its many health benefits, one of which is its beneficial effects for arthritis sufferers.

Green Teas
Green Teas have a flavor closest to the camellia senesis plant itself, and perhaps surprisingly, have the highest caffeine content. Green teas are picked, sweated, cooked and dried. The variety of plant, picking time, picking technique, cooking techniques and drying techniques, all produce different types and flavors of green tea. Common Chinese green teas include Lóngjǐng (Dragon Well) from Zhèjiāng, Bìluóchūn (Spring Snail) from Jiāngsū, Mǎofēng from Ānhuī and Mǎojiān from Hénán. Taìpǐng hóuguí (also from Ānhuī) is perhaps the most expensive and renown green tea because it is China’s national tea. It is hard to ship and handle because it is processed in long, thin strips and stands up straight during brewing. This tea can last up to ten infusions.

Japan also has a strong green tea tradition, producing varieties such as Sencha, a powdered green tea called Matcha and Bancha. Bancha is a lower grade Sencha that includes stems and Genmaicha is Sencha mixed with toasted rice. Unlike Pǔ’ěr, it is best to drink green teas as soon as possible after their harvest to retain the most flavor.

Oolong Teas
Any tea with less than full oxidation (like a black tea) is categorized as an Oolong. Oolongs typically come from Fújiàn, Guǎngdōng and Taiwan. The tea variety, amount of oxidation and rolling techniques all significantly affect the end flavor. For example, Yùlán is a type of Oolong tea made from a bush that produces a flowery, Magnolia-flavored tea. Rock Oolongs or Yánchá are from from Wǔyíshān Mountain in Fújiàn and are highly oxidized, dried and toasted. Wǔyíshān is known to have thousands of different tea varietals, and Wǔyí teas are robust with mineral characteristics. Dàhóngpáo, for example, is famous because the tea tree grows in red soil on the rock mountain. Ānxī, a county south of Fujian is famous for producing Tiěguānyīn or Iron Goddess of Mercy. These teas are lightly oxidized, then bruised and tightly rolled. They are fragrant, fruity teas with orchid or peach characteristics. Oolongs are sometimes mixed with the Osmanthus flower, which is a small, yellow, fragrant flower grown in Southern China. Taiwan also produces a variety of high-quality Oolongs, such as Dongding.

Red/Black Teas
Black teas, known in China as hóngchá (red tea) are fully oxidized and seen less in China than other parts of the world. Common Chinese black teas include Zhēngshān xiǎozhòng and Diānhóng (Yunnan Imperial). Chinese black teas are robust and often malty. Red/Black teas are more like what you would traditionally find in Western countries in a teabag. Teabags are filled with crushed and broken tea leaves (those which aren’t good enough for loose leaf tea), with a high surface area. This creates a sudden, full burst of flavor, which quickly dissipates, meaning the teabag is really only good for one steep.

Pǔ’ěr Teas
Pǔ’ěr is a fully cooked tea that is made in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The pǔ’ěr name comes from the pǔ’ěr region of Yunnan, where this tea was originally processed in imperial China. Known in China as heīchá (black tea), pǔ’ěrs are created through a microbial fermentation process that involves both fermentation by organisms growing in the tea and oxidization. Pǔ’ěr is picked and cooked, often heat-blasted in a wok, and then dried immediately in the sun. The sun drying process creates a base material called Saiqing maocha, which is then further processed into shóu or shēng pǔ’ěr. Shēng pǔ’ěr is steamed and pressed into caked or bricks of tea and then baked to remove any final moisture. Shóu pǔ’ěr goes through wodui processing, which was invented by the Menghai pǔ’ěr factory in the 1960s to mimic the flavor of aged shēng pǔ’ěr teas. The process was a state secret for many years. Pǔ’ěr continues to ferment and change in flavor the longer it is kept, and is the only tea to increase in value with age.

Nowadays pǔ’ěr may be the most famous tea in China, but it has only been this way for less than 50 years. The combination of Chinese investment into pǔ’ěr bricks, the introduction of this tea into the international markets via Chinese immigrants in San Francisco, and the perceived health benefits of pǔ’ěr have caused the price and popularity of pǔ’ěr to sky-rocket. In fact, in efforts to regulate the quality of pǔ’ěr for investment purposes, as of December 2008, only teas produced in Yunnan province’s 639 towns and 11 prefectures and cities can be labeled “Puer.”

You can now see disks of pǔ’ěr bricks in most tea houses and lots of souvenir shops around China, as it has become a national phenomenon. Oddly enough, pǔ’ěr stored in Beijing may be less dark and flavorsome than when stored in other areas of the world with different climates and more moisture!

*The Hutong offers an 8-day Biking, Culinary and Tea Journey to the beautiful countryside and tea plantations of Xishuangbanna, so you can experience tea country first-hand, and even pick your own tea brick, and supports Tea Journeys, an innovative tea company that offers private tea ceremonies, unique flavor infusions, corporate gifts and more! http://www.t-journeys.com/

Email: erin@thehutong.com for details.


Helpful Chinese Tea Words

茶 chá Tea
绿茶 lù chá Green Tea
乌龙茶 wūlóng chá Oolong Tea
红茶 hóng chá Black (red) Tea
白茶 bái chá White Tea
黑茶 hēi chá Pu’er Tea
普洱 pǔ’ěr Pu’er Tea
生普洱 shēng pǔ’ěr “uncooked” pu’er
熟普洱 shóu pǔ’ěr “cooked” pu’er
茉莉花茶 mòlihuā chá Jasmine Tea
菊花茶 júhuā chá Chrysanthemum Tea

香气 xiāng qì scent
香味 xiāng weì taste
口感 kǒu gǎn ‘mouth feel’

好喝 hǎo hē tastes good
不好喝 bú hǎo hē tastes bad
我喜欢 wǒ xǐ huan I like it
我不喜欢 wǒ bú xǐ huan I don’t like it
很浓 hěn nóng very strong
很淡 hěn dàn very weak

斤 jīn Tea weight measurement=500 g
克 kè gram
一两 yī liǎng 50 grams

茶壶 cháhú teapot
茶杯 chábēi teacup
盖碗 gàiwǎn traditional Chinese tea brewing cup
茶具 chájù teaware

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Compiled by and from: Sherry Zhang, Joel Shucat, Celestina Swanson, Sofia Courtney, Erin Henshaw, chinaculture.org and time.com

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It’s the longest break period I have ever had between posts, which is a testament to how busy life in Beijing has become. A little over a year ago I was constantly lost, didn’t have a job or know a single person here, and was one visa run away from heading home. Now I know more about the gems of Beijing than many locals, have worked on an array of unique projects with different companies, and have become friends with some of the most inspiring and supportive people I have ever met. I’m happy to say that every challenge has made me a tougher and more competent person, and I’m truly confident that we made the right choice in moving here and sticking it out in China. My bank account and lungs may not agree, but my mind and spirit do.

I know for the future that my personal survival pack for transferring to any new city must include:
-A map
-A bike
-Good cell phone
-Supportive company (got lucky with this one)
-Foreign Grocery
-Fun exercise group (here I love Heyrobics, The World Heath Store and Yoga Yard)
-Expat website or publications (The Beijinger and more…)

In trying to think about this post, I also came up with a few “you know you’ve been in China too long-isms,” so here goes:

-When you stamp your foot in a hallway when there’s a light switch
-You refer to your co-worker “Seamouse” without batting an eye
-You stand on the western toilet, because it’s too dirty to sit from all the squatters, and you don’t mind striking up a conversation between stalls, either
-You ride on your bike opposite traffic and weave through buses like an idiot
-You don’t wince (as much) when seeing a 2-year old stand in the middle of a scooter on a family trip
-Despite all efforts, you eat way too much rice
-You realize that Chinese people are not always mad at each other, they just speak in tones!
-You have become (almost) accustomed to hawking, honking and loud speaking, and feel like other cities are quiet.
-You insert “mafan” into English sentences because the meaning is so much more appropriate than saying “annoying”
-The answer, “because it’s China” has almost stopped inciting fury in your mind…and probably will next year

I’m dealing with a period of re-adjustment in many ways. I thought I would only be in China for a year, am trying to strike a balance between life and career opportunities, and understanding how to balance my Western desires with Eastern interests. I often feel like I’m cheating a bit living here, because I have transitioned from eating street food, living cheaply and learning a lot about the Chinese language and culture to working primarily with foreigners, living a quite comfortable lifestyle and indulging in things like western groceries and pricey yoga classes. I also work a lot more and travel a lot less. While thinking about all of these things, I constantly consider both sides to moving back to the US or trying to work in another country…but I still feel confident in staying here now.

I mean, I’m leading a group of Indian tourists on a bar crawl on Saturday night and a German family on a journey through Tiananmen and the Forbidden city on Monday…where else could I do that?! In between I will be furiously finalizing details for an educational student trip to Inner Mongolia, visa run to Hong Kong, and bike tour of Yunnan! Upon my return, the Chi Fan for Charity website will go live and I will soon be managing more events at The Hutong, ah!

Alright, in the future I plan on writing more about navigating Beijing as an expat, Charity in China, Traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese tea…but for now I’m pooped. Below are photos that nicely illustrate my attempts to live up the best of both Chinese and Expat culture here; Anne Baughman and I hitting up all the Beijing sites, Danny Boselovic and crew who flew in from the US for one night of DJing at Club Latte, the charity dinner I planned with Chef Jeff Powell at The Hutong and The People’s Olympics (an awesome, outdoor, big-kid field day event that friends put together in Chaoyang Park.)

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Bob Soong, one of our most awesome blog supporters, gave me the inspiration for the title of this blog post. Clearly, David and I have large wings, because the most powerful capital city in the world wasn’t enough to hold us…we had to expand to the most populous one as well! We were lucky enough to visit the US this summer for two weddings, a visit with newborn Holden Jacobs and lots of additional visits and shopping (for me.) I just arrived back in Beijing with over 100lbs of clothes and American food…mostly food. Although my bag was checked three times, once by a cute little beagle, I made it back with all my bounty in tow.

A lot of you have asked about our jobs, so I’ll give a quick overview. I am freelancing in the world of events and PR/marketing and am currently working on charity events and educational tours and programming with The Hutong (www.thehutong.com) culture center and helping to run a November charity dining event called Chi Fan for Charity (www.chifanforcharity.org). I believe that David and I will both be returning to teach English at a British international school in August, and I should be taking on an additional leadership position there. (So yes, we will be here another year, but will be visiting for the holidays as well. Frequent fliers anyone?!)

David is actually in Orlando, FL at the moment, helping to run his company’s summer camps. He is already dealing with a lost passport, but the kids seem to be having a good time. He will be there until mid-August, then back home for a family reunion, and finally a meeting in New York before heading back to meet me. We will probably spend a few weeks together before I lead two different tours, one to Inner Mongolia and another to Yunnan in Southern China! *There are still spots available for this awesome bike, tea, and culinary adventure.

Below are photos from:
*Our last day of teaching just before our trip home
*Tim and Courtney’s pre-wedding festivities in Charlotte, NC
*Coles and Randi’s farmhouse wedding in Roanoke, VA
*Holden at Meadowlark Gardens
*Kenilworth Gardens and its Lotus ponds/fields, where we spoke with some native Beijingers and learned that water lily’s grow IN the water and lotus flowers grow ABOVE the water.
*My visit to the most authentic Chinese Tea House in the area, Ching China Cha in Georgetown and cupcakes from Baked and Wired. (And photos of Gtown on a sweltering but great day downtown!)
*Jane and I before completing Jane’s first 5K!
*My stocked Beijing pantry, thanks mom

Jane, David and I also spend a night with Dad at his new river house on the Yeocomico river in the Northern Neck of Virginia, but I was too busy taking in the rays to snap any photos. We also had a really nice visit with the grandparents while meeting Holden.

PS…did I mention that woke up bright-eyes at 5am this morning ?! I’m blogging because nothing is open yet, good ‘ol jet-lag.

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Wuddup. I haven’t posted in a while and can’t think of anything of particular importance, so I am going to make a very “bloggy” blog post that discusses what I did yesterday. The day started early with Erin and I heading over to The Hutong for a quick tour of one of the local markets. We were led by master chef Joel who took us through the market explaining what everything was. We have been to a lot of markets so it wasn’t anything new, but it was good to learn what some of the questionable looking spices were and what they are used for. It was a pretty beautiful day for Beijing, the sky was a bluish gray and it was pretty warm. After the tour, we headed back to the Hutong for a Thai cooking class, where we were going to make minced pork, a green curry, and a papaya salad. Our teacher was Ling Pei, a Malaysian chef that obviously knew a lot about Thai cooking, and I was pretty amazed at how good the green curry tasted. The class was a good example of a foreigners outing in Beijing; there were 4 Americans, 2 Russians, a Spaniard, a German, a Malaysian, and a Chinese ayi (literally means Auntie, in this instance the woman who helps the class and cleans).

After the class I went to Jingshan park with a friend to enjoy the day. The weather was nice but the sky wasn’t really clear, and a normally stunning view of Beijing was only mediocre. I will attach some pictures of when we came to the same park on a clearer day. I had some food a little bit later and walked around some of the old parts of Beijing for about an hour. On my way to the subway station, I saw an unfortunately all too common scene.

Two old foreigners were trying to talk to a guard and a driver and I already knew what was going on. Many taxi’s and 3 wheel “cars” prey on the old foreigners in this area and offer them rides at seemingly fair prices. Upon arriving at the destination, the price which was originally 3 turns into 300. I saw what was going on and asked them what was going on, and they told me that the driver said 3 and they said OK, and then was asking for 300 when they got there. I don’t know why, but these things make me so angry that I can barely control myself. I picture my grandparents or parents coming to China for a visit and getting ripped off by some scumbag that intimidates them and acts like his price is a fair one. It even happened to Erin, the other Tangshan teacher and I, with us almost getting run over by the angry driver after I kicked the door open and we paid him nothing. That being said, I got into the driver’s face and told him he was a cheat, a bad person, and to leave now. He tried to act like his price was fair but as soon as I started speaking Chinese, he realized the jig was up, and basically ran to his little bike and rode off. The young guard that was approached by the old couple just laughed at the whole situation, and I yelled at him too, saying that he knows the price isn’t fair and the old couple asked him for help. The French couple was happy that I arrived, and I hope that this blog post can help someone avoid these scams in the future. A very drunken Chinese man then talked to me on the walk to the subway, telling me I was a good guy and that he hopes I don’t think everyone in China is a cheat (I don’t). I stopped for some street food (dinner for $1), and went back home.

So that is a fairly typical non-work day I would say. I am not taking cooking classes and fighting with drivers on a daily basis, but you get the picture. Hope everyone is doing well and I am thinking about home a lot more recently with my brother and his wife soon to have their first baby! I can’t wait. That is all for now, 再见 (this means goodbye).

“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.”

-Zhuangzi

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This past weekend I organized a “Bohai or Bust Kick-Off Party” at The Hutong. The event was a way for Beijingers to learn a little more about supporting the biking community in Beijing, hear a factual talk on pollution levels, and register for the upcoming Bohai or Bust charity bike ride at The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu. We made museli bars, gave away prizes and listened to a few awesome speakers, including Beijing’s accident traffic and air pollution expert Gilbert Van Kerckhove. I had a really good time at this event, especially since I have just recently become a Beijing biker and would love to see this turn into a more bike-friendly city!

A few reporters wrote about the event…and you can catch a glimpse of some familiar faces in this article. *Despite the fact that I’m NOT the organizer for Bohai or Bust and David is making muesli bars, NOT dumplings…this is a fun article!

My future goal is to actually write something worthy enough to be published in one of these magazines!

Well, it’s still pretty cold here and the heat has officially been turned off. The wind also gusted so hard today that I had to momentarily stop riding my bike on the way to work! This week I’m busy preparing for The Fig Tree’s booth at the Expat Show, and David is also experimenting with riding a bike to work.

Well, my experience in Beijing has certainly done a complete 180 over the past few weeks. For the first time since coming to China I really feel like I’m in the right place in my personal AND professional life. I have been doing a mix of marketing, events and teaching…and getting a kick out of it! I also booked my flights home for the holidays, so I will be visiting December 19-Jan 2nd and David is also likely coming home, but just working to figure out his work schedule.
If you are interested in seeing the details of the first two events I have helped organize, look below:

11.11 Get your singles Rum Truffle making on at The Fig Tree! http://www.thefigtree.cn/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=79

HAPPY HUTONG; The first charity event I have helped organize in Beijing: http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/events/77161/

This past weekend was the first I didn’t have to work Sat/Sun, and I got to attend Beijing’s Chi Fan for Charity fundraising event (http://chifanforcharity.org/event.aspx) which raised over RMB 200,000 for three different local charities. I invited Betsy and Jessica and we ate gourmet Chinese food at LAN, and I tried my first sea cucumber. This dish is quite a delicacy in China, and although I’m not sure I ever would’ve ordered it myself, I was happy to have had the chance. It looks like an over-sized, dark brown, spikey caterpiller, but has a gelatinous texture and actually tastes pretty bland. For the dish they smother the poor sucker in gravy, so it reminded me of a Chinese version of Thanksgiving turkey. If I had known I could’ve ordered the vegetarian version, I would’ve, it looked the same but was made out of flour!

Our table was mostly filled with very successful Chinese Americans who were all living in Beijing for one reason or another. Our table sponsor was Chen Daming, an up and coming Chinese writer/film director. He just directed Gong Li’s newest movie, which is a remake of Mel Gibson’s What Women Want for the Chinese audience. He was a friendly guy with some good stories about Hollywood, so I certainly ate that up! LAN also had a great atmosphere that looked like Alice in Wonderland, and of course the three of us hosted a mini photo shoot for the occasion. We also attended the after party for the event, where we had a good time eating a few free cupcakes and schmoosing with the local Expat community. People say the expat community here is small…and they aren’t kidding! It’s kinda nice though because after only being in Beijing for about 3 months I see some familiar faces. I chatted with the founder of the event, Michael Crain, who should be really proud of hosting such an excellent fundraiser!

On Sunday I volunteered to host a UVa table at Tsinghua University and answer questions for prospective students. Although it’s quite a trek to Tsinghua from my house, it was great to see so many nervously excited kids. I was really impressed with their knowledge of the admissions process and handle of the English language.

And now that I’m officially little miss Beijing Carrie Bradshaw (officially meaning…its been up for 9 months and we’re almost at 20,000 clicks) I have been introduced to a whole new world of high-class writers, also known as my friends. Anyway, my friends keep awesome blogs here if you are interested:

http://faruppereastside.blogspot.com/ First of all, how great is the name of this blog? Alison and Adam are from New York and have only been in China a few months. They just recently posted about an incredible trip to Xinjiang in Western China.

http://blog.sina.com.cn/laowaidianbao Caroline is an aspiring journalist and writes for an English magazine for expats interested in Chinese language and culture. Her entries have a really great voice, and I have her to thank for my marketing position.

http://betsybecky.wordpress.com/ For sure Betsy has the most off the wall blog, her references are hysterical and she’s very creative. She just started up again after a year in Shanghai, so get ready for more Betsalicious antics.
*The most interesting thing I have EVER seen in a vending machine…only in China:
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/149434.html

NEXT UP…Barbara and Mark Jacobs do CHINA

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