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A celebration of all the tea in China

By Chen Ye (Shanghai Daily)

09:20, May 07, 2012

Tea drinking has a long history in China and is an integral part of the culture. For Buddhists, Taoists or Confucians, tea expresses something universal.

The spring tea harvest is well under way. There are some places to pick fresh tea on scenic plantations and many teahouses in the city where you can savor cha. Chen Ye reports.

The first thing Li Shengrong does every morning after he gets up is walk to his glass cupboard and choose from dozens of teas, selecting his Tea of the Day.

Li has been a tea enthusiast for more than 30 years and runs a teahouse in Shanghai's Xuhui District.

His wife complains in jest that the first thing he does in the morning is inhale his precious tea - before giving her a kiss.

Li says he likes black tea in the morning, green tea at midday and afternoon and dark tea, or post-fermented tea like Pu'er, in the evening.

When he isn't running his tea house, 57-year-old Li spends most of his time with tea, which is an integral part of his life. He says he's never been without tea.

"My wife teases, saying I love teas more than I love her because every morning instead of kissing her chin and saying good morning, I always move fast to my cupboard, choose a tea, open the tea caddy and take a deep breath of the fragrance. This puts me in a pleasurable mood all day."

After choosing his Tea of the Day, Li turns to his tea table and begins to boil water for kung fu tea, or a tea ceremony. This is how he treats friends.

The third floor of Li's teahouse is filled with sunshine and a Maitreya Buddha reclines on his favorite marble tea table. Tea tables are usually made of wood, but he prefers marble surface with elaborate wood carving.

After washing each piece on the marble tea table including six small cups, he begins adding tea to the teapot.

"I love making kung fu tea in front of my friends. Usually I add hot water and fill the teapot until it overflows a little. I let the water stand for a few seconds to warm the pot before pouring it out. I like to see my friends' faces and they think oh my god, the water is coming out," Li says with a laugh.

Then he starts washing tea leaves, and keeps an eye on the temperature of the electric kettle.

"Temperature is the key to kung fu tea," Li says, pouring a cup of hot and fragrant Dragon Well (Longjing) Tea.

The first cup is not perfect but the second and third cups are the best, with pronounced flavor and fragrance.

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