One of my mates, Mr. Nowhereman (unrelated to Mr. Nobody in Ulysses) have just come back from the middle of nowhere in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province in China. He, like me, is also a big fan of good food and wine. He has taken lots of picture on the subject food along his pilgrimage. With his consent, I'll post some fascinating stories of his here. The first part, is on the tea culture of Sichuan.
Lets start from the basic: a tea set in Sichuan. It comprises three parts: a lid, a cup (Sichuanese call it bowl instead of cup) and a saucer. There's another name for the saucer too: the tea ship - a metaphor describing the saucer holds the tea cup like a ship, I guess.
The boiling water is not poured into the cup to full in one time. In the first time the cup is gently poured to about half full, leaving time for the dried tea leaves to "breath" and to "stretch" (how thoughtful); after the leaves are stretched, the boiling water will be poured again rapidly from high - to plough on the leaves in order to draw out the fragrance of the tea.
Picture on the left captured a facet inside a traditional teahouse in Sichuan. Unlike Cantonese teahouses where people usually go there for the dim sum rather than the tea; Sichuanese obviously appreciate the teahouse by its face value. See how everyone is basking in their bamboo chairs, either reading news or, better still, whiling the afternoon away with nothing done.
If you can read Chinese characters, you'll be very surprised by the price for a cup of tea here. The best one is selling at a mere RMB$6, which is just about half a euro! Gee, can I buy anything with that in Paris? Mind you, this is the price that includes unlimited refill as long as you stay there. And when you leave, the etiquette has it that you either place the lid or the saucer on the chair to show to the waiters you're leaving. Otherwise, they'll assume you're staying and will refill your cup yet again.
- Photographed by Nowhereman (links in traditional Chinese characters)