I first entered Wisdom Arts 2 years ago, and was pleased to be met by May who spoke English, and was keen to talk to me and answer some of my questions. May is the co-owner of wisdom arts, her business partner Ming was away in China on atea buying trip, and she was running the shop with the help of a young Chinese girl who spoke reasonable but limited English. A visitor came into the shop and sat down at the tea session table (a huge table with a slate slab on top with an undercut ledge for drainage), May explained that this was a friend and an expert and he could answer many of my questions far better than she could, that he could brew tea far better than she, and that he had brought some of his prized tea in to share with whomever was there – would I like to join them? – Yes please!
Actually taken on a different day when the same friend was brewing.
always brewed depending on bubble size
Some of the more expensive yixings - the commercial ones were at the front of the shop.
I visited the shop several times, sometimes (especially in the mornings) there was only the young girl there and she would be brewing tea for tourists and passers by on a much smaller table near the front of the shop. But in the afternoons, there would usually be a group including May and one of various friends supervising the brewing. One or more of them would produce a packet of tea (usually Pu) and present it for inspection round the group, one of these or a shop product presented by May would then be brewed for all.
Often the afternoon tea party would include food, the rear table was reserved for food brought in from a nearby Chinese restaurant, 2 people taking a break from tea to line their stomachs. 3 at the near table (4 including me, drinking more tea)
May with the guest brewer!
On my last visit I purchase a number of items (May was busy with other customers so I purchased from the girl), a number of products including Ginseng Oolong, Teo Chew Tea, and a Da Hong Pao which the girl was proud to tell me was a genuine Cliff Tea.
The young girl last year at the front of the shop, with commercial teas behind, and in her hands a Tea Cushion that I was buying.
- - - - - -
Due to my pleasant experiences last year this was the first store I made a beeline for this year. Ming was at the Slate table, fondling and polishing his Yixing teapots, looking slightly quizzically at me as I made a quick move to where the Cliff Teas were on display and started examining them. The young girl appeared to recognise me, said something in Chinese to Ming and his quizzical look melted as he returned his attention to his teapots. Twenty minutes later May entered from the rear, welcomed me joyously, and I was quickly invited to share some tea with Ming in charge. Soon further friends had arrived and there were 8 of us round the table.
After half a dozen tastes of tea, I needed a break from all the concentrated effort, I persuaded may to let me log in to the Lap Top and show her a TeaChat post I had made on their Da Hong Pao. They were extremely tickled to see that they were mentioned on the forum, and later that week, and again 2 weeks later when I had returned from the Cameron Highlands on occasions when different friends were gathered they asked me to log in to Tea Chat and display the post.
That first week a young girl came in with a C.V. which Ming scanned briefly and filed, when I returned from the Cameron Highlands she was there, working alongside the first girl – she had been so nervous when handing in her C.V. she had not noticed me, I commented that I had been there that day and on all subsequent visits she would rapidly greet me with a broad friendly smile and warm welcome.
Nothing happens early in China Town (or anywhere else in the centre of K.L.) – shops tend to open at 10 in the morning and stay open late into the evening. Most mornings at 11 you would only find the 2 girls, who operate at the front of the shop where they have a medium sized range of Chinese teas, Green, Commercial oolong, Ginseng, Black etc. Towards the back of the shop are a huge collection of PuErh and 3 genuine YanCha Oolongs – this is the preserve of Ming.
Ming with one of the teapots he had commissioned for the shop, I bought one, and an aged tea that he was about to let me taste. While we were waiting for some friends to arrive for a tea party.
Some of the friends who gathered most afternoons for the friendly tea parties at the slate table, spoke good English, and some of the stories I gleaned from them were
Several decades ago a group of friends started exploring Chinese tea together, over the years the group grew to more than twenty strong, they arranged trips to China together and collected more and more tea. They stored some to age and hid it away, from time to time they would unearth one and produce it for all to taste. As the years passed they amassed more and more tea! Finally they realised they had far more tea than they could ever drink, so 2 of their number Ming and May decided to open a tea shop and sell off their overstocks, their friends overstocks and enter the retail tea business wholeheartedly. That was the theory, but in reality it became the focal point for all those original friends and many new ones.
Many of the original groups had tea widows, some of the widows decided they would take up this interest also and became avid tea enthusiasts themselves.
No food yet, the new girl is putting up some customer orders on the rear table, at the tea table one of the original group of friends and his wife who had developed the same enthusiasm for tea. Another tea friend, and Ming working on the lap top looking for some info for me.
A tea for me to taste, and a riceware cup that I was just about to purchase.
Some of the widows did not take to the tea so enthusiastically, but started arranging their own trips to China for shopping and sightseeing.
One of the tea friends was an attractive lady doctor who had qualified medically then gone to China to live for 15 years to become fully qualified in Chinese herbal medicine.