Sunday, November 08, 2009

Cha Cha Cha

Observation of the Week: The ubiquitous cha. Aka tea. And I've discovered that it's not just "tea.". It's Cha with a capital "C".

When you order tea in America, you get Lipton. Or Salada. If you're ordering in a Chinese restaurant, it's some sort of nameless black tea. If it's Japanese, it's green tea. And if you're in the South, it's sweet tea.

Tea in China is so important that they sell glass double walled tea carriers that look like mini nalgene bottles. I first saw them on the flight to China and then I saw them at a store and they are Not. Cheap. But they are so cool that I wished I drank enough tea to actually justify getting one.

In China, when you order tea, you get a choice. Not between just two teas - black or green - but between an array of black and an array of green. In fact most places bring over a menu. Yah. Just for tea. Usually 2 pages. Categorized by type - jasmine, herb, oolong, green, etc. I never knew there were so many. And they are priced by the pot. And it's not cheap. Anywhere from $2 to $10 a pot! Seriously. And it's served in tiny little cups usually, that you fill over and over again. And if you don't fill it, the wait staff will fill it.

Our tea experience culminated at dinner the other night. Our table had a dedicated tea girl. She comes over to the table, and the Tea Process begins. There is a tea table next to our eating table. There is a silver pot of water on a stand over a burner hot enough to boil the water and keep it hot. Uhhh... Definitely no tea lights here. Then she puts tea in a strainer that sits over a largish cup with a spout. She pours hot water into the strainer, covers it with a cute little lid and steeps it for a minute, takes out the strainer leaving hot tea, then pours that tea into a smallish tea pouring pot. Then she takes that tea pouring pot and pours tea into tiny little cups that hold only an ounce or two. And then we drink it.

Then it happens over again. And she does this all through dinner. Yup. Yup yup yup. And tea pouring is serious business. She was well dressed in a beautiful uniform, was pretty and fair of face and spoke no English. In fact, I'm not sure if she could speak at all because she never uttered a word.

And I also noticed there was no "white" tea at all on any of the menus.

Anyway, this tea drinking is such serious business that I kinda wished I were a serious tea drinker. Not to mention being able to justify buying one of the beautiful tea sets for purchase in all the stores we've been in.

Oh. And on a totally unrelated side note, all those brides we've been seeing on Shamian Island (Land of Idyllic Ambiance) are models on photo shoots. But they're out there every day! How many pictures do they need? I mean, you can only see so many before they all start looking alike!

And now I am all drugged up for my wrist which is swollen. Tendonitis according to my friend H. And the travel doctor also gave me steroids for my asthma. I am a walking pharmacology.

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