Tea culture is ingrained in China’s history and and has a bright future, too – especially if you ask Min Lin , the proprietress of a teahouse hidden in an unassuming Shanghai apartment complex. It’s no exaggeration to say that entering the apartment feels like taking a step out of time.
From the gentle murmur of an indoor waterfall and the soft light, to the thoughtful decor and the wafting aromas of tea and incense, this space compels visitors to slow down and leave worldly concerns at the door. So much so, that even our crew, sweaty and creaking under heaps of recording equipment, is suddenly hushed.
We spend several unplanned hours sampling tea. Red tea, black tea, water lily tea. We learn that sucking small amounts of tea through puckered lips, followed by slurping, is vital to experiencing its flavor. We learn about the “Tea Lifestyle” and about the way tea presentation differs across the globe – from rigid and ceremonial, with focus on gestures and pomp, to quiet and casual, where relaxation and inner peace are key.
What does it mean to lead the Tea Lifestyle? To Min, it meant leaving her New York job to return to China, transform her life, and to pursue her biggest passion: tea. Between slowly pouring us fresh (dainty, lotus-shaped) cups of steaming tea, she describes the Tea Lifestyle as that of calm awareness, based around on the art of appreciating and savoring every moment.
Min Lin’s husband, Lirong Su, shows us the tea accessories he made, smooth bamboo cups, trays and scoops. He tells us every piece of furniture in this place has a story when talking about an ornate, antique shutter that’s gained a second life as a tea tray.
He helps us choose tea for our Kickstarter contributors before it’s time to go, and even though several hours have passed, “time” seems distant and irrelevant in this urban sanctuary.
The teahouse is on temporary hiatus, but Min Lin and Lirong Su are still running their tea business. They can be reached via email for inquiries, or by phone, at 13950202101.
Words and photos by Zoetica Ebb