Saturday, January 14, 2017

Xiamen, China: Tea Drinking at the Tushita in Nanputuo Temple

The Nanputuo Temple (South Putuo Temple) is a big place and if one is planning to climb the Five Old Men hills (Wulaofeng) that is part of its property, a good supply of water is needed. This place is definitely not for the lazy and faint-hearted.

As I mount the paved pathway of the hills, I noticed that many Chinese families climb all the way to the top with the whole clan, with grandma and grandpa in tow. It is quite an impressive sight to see old people climbing the rocks. The old generation in China are very active. I often read that they can be seen dominating the parks in the city during early mornings and sundown, stretching out their muscles as they practice the Tai Chi. Hmm, I will have to see this for myself tomorrow.

China does not hold the highest record for life expectancy in the world but in the last study, its sub-state, the once-governed by Portugal state of Macau held the fourth slot. I read that gambling revenues partly go to a government fund that invests in the social and quality living of its resident retirees. Good for them.

Tea Tushita Nanputuo Temple

The Tushita Building offer visitors to the park some siesta tea time.

I was getting a little bit thirsty from the ascent and because of the warm weather as well. December is winter season in Xiamen but I find it very mild compared to north Europe. Temperatures here during winter are between 18C and 26C, which are actually similar to summer temperatures in the Netherlands. So yes, I was kind of sweating, haha.

Well I struck luck when I came upon the Tushita building halfway through the climb. They have converted the place into a tea shop and tea house. It used to be a retreat house of the previous abbot of Nanputuo. It is not a place to eat at though. The vegetarian restaurant on the temple grounds are better suited for hungry visitors.

The list of tea they have on the menu was quite long and everything was in Chinese. So even if I wanted to pick the best, I would not know which, unless I gamble and go for the expensive ones. But alas, we all know that price is never a guarantee for taste and quality. So I asked the man from the tea shop that I specifically want oolong tea. He does not speak English but understood me perfectly. He pointed the oolong teas on the menu. Being sensible (read: sometimes frugal) with spending, I picked one of the affordable choices which was going at 50 CNY (€6.80).

For an order you get a big thermos of hot water. The tea is actually good for 2-4 people, so I am a bit of a disadvantage here buying this for only 1 person consumption.

As I wait for one of the men to serve the tea, I strolled along the edges of the terrace to enjoy the surrounding views. The Tushita building is not very high on the Wulaofeng hills, but from its terrace you can have good views of the area and the buildings nearby.

I guess the man serving me knew that I am a greenhorn when it comes to Chinese tea, so he showed me how to prepare tea and how to drink it. In the western world, we drink tea rather simply. Either a cup with a tea bag in it or loose leaf with a strainer. In China, rather the Chinese way of drinking tea, they do it differently. It is a process, similar to a ritual. The man first cleaned the porcelains with hot water before beginning with the actual tea preparation.

After seeing how tea is prepared, I followed his instructions for my next cuppa, I first poured water on the loose leaves, let it sit for a quarter of a minute (or depends on the intensity you want), then pour the tea into the little pot strainer, and then afterwards pour the tea into the super tiny tea cups. Drink and then repeat the process.

Actually, if you really want to drink tea refinedly, you will have to stop for a bit every time you pour a cup -- breathe deeply, inhale, exhale and smell the tea. My sister and I had fun doing this several years ago in Singapore when we went to this tea house for traditional Chinese tea. Read here: The Fine Art of Oriental Tea Drinking at Yizing Xuan Teahouse

I guess I managed to almost drink the whole thermos of hot water. I never had so much fluids in my body as this day, but I badly needed it as I was on the verge of getting the flu before the trip. Having lots of fluid is what I needed to combat sickness and dehydration, especially after a long flight and a bit of jetlag. I can literally say that I was tea drunk from this tea drinking activity here at Nanputuo!

The tea house here at Tushita building was really a good find! This was really a nice surprise.

Entrance to the Tushita tea house. 

Tushita building

The Tushita building used to be a retreat house. It is now a tea shop and tea house. Tea is served outdoors on its terrace. They also sell local cookies and biscuits.

Tea preparation

Showing me how to prepare tea here.

Tea drinking

You first pour hot water on the loose tea leaves, then pour the tea to the pot strainer, and lastly, pour the tea to the tiny teacups. Drink! Then repeat the process for your next cuppa.

Loose tea leaves

Views from the outdoor terrace of Tushita tea house.

Of course the liter of tea I drank had to go somewhere. This is their public toilet. This kind of  toilet accommodation is very common in China and in many parts of Asia. No worries really, you can even find them in France =)

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Xiamen (Fujian), China

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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