I'm going to China for 3.5 weeks, of which I plan on spending a few days in Suzhou, and Yixing, and the rest in Shanghai.
Does anyone have any tips on how to make the most of the trip in terms of tea? For instance, in Yixing, how do find the higher quality potters rather than the dime-a-dozen mass producers of fake or mixed clay? In Suzhou, how can I see a tea field or factory if they don't normally offer public tours (which I'm assuming is the case)? In all 3 places, with tea houses on every corner, how can I narrow it down to those possessing higher quality teas?
As well, I'm wondering about tea shop culture. For instance, is it common or acceptable to not buy anything after spending some time sitting down and trying teas? If so, would you be expected to pay for the tea you tried? Is there a detailed reading on the social customs of tea houses anywhere?
Thanks in advance!
EDIT: It's worth mentioning that I speak virtually no Mandarin aside from a few necessities. I've been speaking with someone on CouchSurfing who says she'll most likely be able to host me during my stay in Yixing, as long as it's during the weekend, as she works in Suzhou.