Guanyin Pavilion Tea House: Drinking the Same Jasmine Green for 20 YearsBitterleaf
Located about ½ an hour outside of Chengdu, Guanyin Pavilion tea house has been standing for over 100 years. With little to no modern renovations or refurbishing, and plenty of original communist era slogans and paintings adorning the walls, stepping inside is about as close as you can get to stepping into a time warp.
The current owner took over the tea house 1995, with a focus on community and equality. Almost everyone pays the same price, for the same tea, and can enjoy themselves however they please, as long as they don’t interfere with others’ enjoyment. That price is 10 RMB and the tea is Jasmine green tea.
The elderly customers are the exception, which includes at least one centenarian and several in their 90s and 80s, most of whom have been coming daily for over 20 years, and sometimes walking 5 to 6 kilometers each way just to sit and drink. For them, they can enjoy their tea for 1 RMB. This is more as a symbol of respect, but it also ensures that they are a paying customer, so if the water isn’t boiled or there is a problem, they still have the right to complain.
The owner mentioned many people have suggested he raise the price to 15 RMB and offer different types of tea. However, his customers are quite picky and enjoy the tea as it is, so he has no interest in changing it. We’re inclined to agree too – the tea is very well balanced, stopping short of being overly perfumed and offering plenty of body. The water that’s used likely plays a part a, as it comes from a 300 year old well that sits just below the tea house.
Before the “regulars” that you see in these and other photos online arrive, the tea house mostly serves farmers, vegetable vendors and labourers, who tend to be awake even earlier in the morning. The tea house affords them a place to take a break and unwind after work, which can often be when the rest of their family is still asleep. In fact, even though the owner comes in at 6am to start serving the regulars, it’s the early customers who will arrive at 4am to start the stove and drink tea.
As you can already see for yourself, this teahouse is ideal for shooting pictures and videos, and as the morning progresses, more and more tourists and photographers pour in. Both the owner and the regulars don’t seem to mind this though. The owner feels this is a positive in terms of spreading tea culture and has become a pro at judging the lighting and steam himself, even performing stunts and helping visitor get the best shots.
As far as the tea goes, the owner warned us not to trust jasmine tea in a glass cup, which is probably why everything is served in the same porcelain gaiwan, or in his words, the only way to drink jasmine green.