Going to Shanghai, Suzhou, and Yixing. Any tea tips?

Culture, language, tangibles, intangibles from countries known for tea. China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, India, etc...

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Apr 13th 14 10:40 pm
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Going to Shanghai, Suzhou, and Yixing. Any tea tips?

by LowInFat » Apr 13th 14 10:40 pm

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.

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Apr 13th 14 11:33 pm
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Re: Going to Shanghai, Suzhou, and Yixing. Any tea tips?

by JBaymore » Apr 13th 14 11:33 pm

Yixing is likely going to "shock" you a bit. It is not what I think most people "expect". I know it was not what I expected. It is not a "quaint" pottery village or town... it is a big HUGE "pottery city" and is VERY commercial overall. The volume of work being produced is staggering. Mainly factory stuff of all manner.... not just teapots.

You can't help but see lots of pots there. The range will be from toursit schlock to national treasure work. There are tons of small workshops to look into. Just wandering around will be interesting for most folks.

Try to get to the rabbit warren of shops near the last remaining (still functional) wood fired Dragon Kiln there. Lots of 15 foot x 15 foot individual workshops. Fun area to wander.

Be careful saying to people you are looking for "the good stuff" unless you are closely related to Bill Gates. They'll take you to places that have prices that are out of most people's means. I already mentioned here in a thread the one place I was in where the average price of a teapot was $19,000.00 US.

The actual fully handmade works out of seriously hand processed clay by name artists typically require mortgages.

Good handmade teapots from lesser artists out of good clay (not great hand processed stuff) can be found in the $500.00 US range. Slightly more commercial production or very plain handmade pots can be found in the $100 range. Lots of commercial stuff below $100.00 US.

Two major museums worth seeing...... Yixing Pottery Museum and the World Pottery Museum. Huge and stunning collections of ceramics.... not only Chinese work but also international.

Enjoy..... it is amazing.



PS: If you happen to see my couple of pieces of work included in the museums there... please let me know :) .

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Jun 22nd 14 3:07 am
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Re: Going to Shanghai, Suzhou, and Yixing. Any tea tips?

by MarshalN » Jun 22nd 14 3:07 am

Bargain lots. Prices you see are never the prices you should pay, for tea and teaware anyway.

And remember the Longjing rule when buying anything