A Tea Addict's Journal

Old teashops

March 1, 2007 · 12 Comments

I went to Saiwan with B, a HK tea friend, today, to find teas, old teas.

Saiwan is even further West than Sheung Wan, where Bonham Strand is, and is home to many, many, many stores that sell various kinds of Chinese delicacy, dried seafood, medicine, and that kind of thing. There are basically lots of old stores in that area. I’ve never been there until yesterday. It’s a very very interesting area to visit.

The teashop in question looks rather old. There are more in that area, many of them are “upstairs” teashops that only cater to wholesale businesses. In fact, right above this teashop is one such wholesale store, and according to the guy at the teashop downstairs, those wholesalers do big business. Each order is something like 100 jian of tea or more, and their annual business, per wholesaler, can be something like $3 million USD. Not a small sum at all.

The teas we ended up buying were of the broken cakes variety. I got some broken GYGs, vintage unknown. They tasted good enough, and similar to the one sample I tried in Beijing. I think the guy who gave me that bit also got it from these people. It’s quite a bargain and I’m really quite happy with it.

More interestingly, we also tried a poo-poo puerh. This is tea that is, basically, the feces of bugs that eat teas. In fact, the name of the tea given by this teashop is exactly that — “bug shit tea”. Not exactly an elegant name, by any stretch of imagination. Yet, this is really quite a novelty item.

The bug shit tea is basically collected as a by-product of regular storage of tea in large quantities in a wetter storage facility. Wet-storage facility is generally located on a mountain slope in a basement or some such, which means greater level of natural moisture and probably better retention of such moisture. The bugs, I guess, grow naturally in such an environment. When they take out the tongs of tea to sell, they take apart the packaging for the tong of tea, and brush off all the dust and what not. When they do that, however, in the bottom of the tong there will be collected some bug droppings. This is what they collect for this tea. They are really tiny pellets, each about… half an mm in diameter? Black, smelling like old puerh, and unremarkable. When you brew it, you do it using about half a teaspoon of tea, put it in one of those mesh filters that you use to filter your tea, and pour water. The water will drip through the filter very very slowly…. eventually going through.

The liquor is VERY thick. It’s quite strong in taste initially, yielding a rather aromatic tea with smooth texture. The taste is clean. It doesn’t last too many infusions. No, I don’t have any stomach problems right now, many hours after the fact. The tea is really quite interesting. The mom of the family that owns this shop is now 87, and she drinks this everyday. These are truly old tea hands…. with experience that none of us can ever match.

Sorry, no pictures. I wasn’t prepared with a camera.

We ended up with a good bounty of loose puerh of various kinds, and B also bought a few oz of the poo-poo tea. We then went to the BTH to sit and chat for a little more. It was, all in all, quite a fun day.

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas
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12 responses so far ↓

  • Jamie_mt // March 1, 2007 at 5:15 pm | Reply

    Um…uh…yeah. I think that you are braver than I, in this case. No poo-poo puerh for me, thank you, and if I do ever taste it, I would rather not know what it is. A girl’s gotta draw the line somewhere!

  • Phyllo // March 1, 2007 at 5:48 pm | Reply

    “bug shit tea”…how do you write and pronounce in Mandarin?

  • MarshalN // March 1, 2007 at 11:20 pm | Reply

    It doesn’t taste bad at all!  To think cooked puerh is fermented in a big pile of compost…. bug shit tea isn’t so bad!

    The Chinese is Ïxʺ²è

  • MarshalN // March 1, 2007 at 11:21 pm | Reply

    If you’re hoping to find it…. you probably won’t, Phyll.  The teas they ate to make this is most likely older teas… as the shit smelled like older teas. 

  • lewperin // March 2, 2007 at 12:45 pm | Reply

    The Chinese didn’t come through, at least in my browser. Would that be Chong2 Shi3 Cha2 (虫屎茶 or 蟲屎茶)?

  • MarshalN // March 2, 2007 at 1:09 pm | Reply

    The two you wrote are the same thing.  The first is simplified and the second is traditional.  I typed in the traditional.

  • Phyllo // March 2, 2007 at 1:56 pm | Reply

    Chong Shi Cha…ok (also thanks to Lew)  No, I’m not hoping to find it, but Houde does carry a 60’s pu’er that has those poo poo included. Not cheap for a shitty tea (not talking about its quality or taste).

  • lewperin // March 2, 2007 at 2:41 pm | Reply

    Just to clarify this, I’m aware that the two Chinese “spellings”, for want of a better word, are equivalent. In editing Babelcarp, I try to supply both simplified and traditional versions where they differ, because few BC users would be able to figure out one from the other.

  • MarshalN // March 3, 2007 at 6:01 am | Reply

    Please spare me from using the word “spelling” in this context.  It really doesn’t sound right at all. 

  • lewperin // March 3, 2007 at 3:06 pm | Reply

    Yeah, that’s why I put “spelling” in quotes. I’d love to find a more accurate word, even if it had to be heavy jargon.

  • MarshalN // March 3, 2007 at 11:38 pm | Reply

    How about something like the “Chinese characters for this term” or something like that?  More cumbersome, but much more accurate.

  • lewperin // March 4, 2007 at 11:58 am | Reply

    Sigh… I suppose so.

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