Chengdu Tea House

A quick stroll on the streets of Chengdu will reveal scores of tea houses. There is a saying, "China has the best teahouses in the world and Chengdu has the best teahouses in China." The reputation is definitely well-deserved, not only because of the numerous teahouses, but also because the special way of serving and drinking tea.

As soon as the guests enter the teahouse, waiters greet them with a smile on their faces and with teapots and cups in their hands. After the guests have sat down, cups are placed on the table and waiters pour water from behind the guests or from above their heads. When the cups are almost full, the waiters suddenly raise their hands, but not a drop of water is spilled.

The cups' antique style features covers and saucers. Sitting on the saucer, the tea cup looks like a boat floating on the water, hence the name "tea-boat." The cover keeps the water warm and also adjusts the steeping speed of the tea. It also helps prevent the tea leaves from going into one's mouth and helps strain the tea better.

Chengdu Tea house Chengdu Tea house  
Traditional tea house on the Chengdu street. This tea set is unusual.  

People who go to the teahouses are not necessarily thirsty. Retired people pay 20 cents to go to the teahouse and sit there all day long in order chat with each other. They enjoy the relaxing social environment. Sometimes, people bring guests to entertain them. Melon and sunflower seeds are served as light appetizers, mostly to help the passing of time and keep people's fingers' busy.

Teahouses are also places for businessmen to get together to hold trade talks or make deals. In recent years, more and more people go to teahouses for business meetings. Some of the teahouses also have theatrical performances, such as storytelling, crosstalk (comic dialogue) and Sichuan opera.

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