This weekend Henjo, his friend Brian and I went to the large Tianshan tea market, it is basically a tea mall. Everything you imagine they would sell; they have it, and more.
There are brushes to brush the tea on your pot or your charms (peanuts, Buddha or frog miniatures) to cause the very much wanted discoloration of the charms due to the tea. They sell tongs to use to distribute the tea cups to the fellow drinkers as the cups should be too hot to hold. Wooden blocks with a tube which is meant to pour the tea on, and then you let the tea run out of the wooden block via this suction tube.
Naturally there are many shops in this mall that sell actual tea, many of them specialize in one particular tea. We had a ceremony in Brian’s favorite shop, the owner sells tea from a region which is similar to the most prestigious and famous Da Hong Pao tea of the Wuji region in China where there are six 350 year old trees that when harvested produce 100 grams of tea each year.
Brian shared a story with us about this particular tea, in 1972 Richard Nixon was invited to visit General Mao, which was already noteworthy as is, and after the meeting Mao gave Nixon a tin of tea which was 50 grams. Richard Nixon found it kind, but did not realize the gift he had just received – he received a half of the tea from these six trees – was worth about $20,000 dollars.
Eventually I plan on buying a tea-set for myself, small enough to travel with, but I used the day on Saturday to scour around, compare the prices and styles so that I will become acquainted with the products and figure out what I like and need.
Some photos of the market, sorry for the bad quality – my ‘camera’ (telephone) has been letting me down: