I tried to be subtle, pretending to sip some tea and then “accidentally” spilling the rest into the saucer. The woman next to me was doing the same, sneakily pouring hers out onto the ground. There was nothing wrong with the tea and this was uncharacteristic behavior. Normally I’m an anti-food-waste crusader (not an easy thing to be in China) and I’m positively psycho about water conservation. But my bladder was beyond full and I wanted the Sichuan Tea Master to keep pouring.
We had come to Emei Shan, about 150 km southwest of Chendu, to hike one of China’s sacred mountains. Now after a day on our feet, seeing temples and warding off harassment by monkeys and salesmen (who were trying to sell us sticks to use against the monkeys), we were all ready to reward ourselves with a good meal. After a little heated discussion, I convinced the others in our group of six to let my friend, who happened to be fluent in Mandarin, do the ordering. Having her along gave us access to much more than was on the menu. But when she saw a server coming she began to scold herself, saying she had screwed up and that we were getting the “tourist tea” which cost $2.00 rather than the free stuff.
The smartly dressed server carried a tea pot with a spout that was nearly a meter long. The spout became a prop with which he did all sorts of acrobatics, bending this way and that, pouring from behind his back, or over his shoulder. He wielded the pot as if it was a sword. Standing two meters away from the table, he would take aim and the tea would continue it’s trajectory after leaving the spout, traveling in straight line through space and landing magically in our tiny cups. Rarely has a humble cup of tea been so entertaining. We drank and drank.
My recommendation – go to Sichuan. Order Sichuan Tea. And pay the extra dollar or two to see it poured by a Sichuan Tea Master. You’ll never forget.