STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 4, Number 2

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62 STiR tea & coffee industry international / Issue 2, 2015 (April/May) Maliándào Market A sea of tea in Beijing Story and Photos by Si Chen A designer teaware boutique T The beautifully decorated paifang is a prominent landmark of Mǎliándào Tea market, resembling the Chinese gate at Washington D.C.'s Chinatown. he aroma of tea sweetens the air along Beijing's mile-long Maliándào Tea Market. The largest tea market in northern China, Maliándào is a very busy street harboring six tea malls, countless boutiques, and stalls. The market covers more than 200 acres just south of the Beijing West Railway Station, generating more than $1 billion annually. It is an ocean of tea—tea growers, wholesalers, retailers, and teaware artisans are all in one place, a tea lover's dream. Merchants there are incredibly resourceful when it comes to finding prestigious offerings—it is common to see a 10 sq. ft. shop sourcing 100 kinds of tea, or a temoku tea bowl from the Song dynasty, to the delight of connoisseurs. Huayun Red Robe is a typical shop in Maliándào, primarily wholesaling Bohea tea, (Yán Chá or Rock tea) from the Wuyi Mountains, which is also home to the famous Lapsang Souchong. Store owners Yihua Luo and his wife Zhonghong Li, have multi-roles in the tea business—they are tea growers, retailers and wholesalers: Owning a small tea garden in Wuyi, their hometown, the couple grow their own tea and make tea with their own recipe every June. In Maliándào they both wholesale and retail, with big boxes of tea inventory stacked inside their 160 sq.ft. (15 sq.m.) showroom. Bohea is a niche market in Beijing where Jasmine and oolongs are popular but fans frequent the shops weekly providing stable revenue. Across the corridor from Huayun you will see Nihu Zhang, or 'Clay Pot Zhang' ('Zhang' is the owner's surname). Zhang is a Zisha ('purple clay') tea pot artisan with a national reputation for his craftsmanship. You often find the master sitting in a corner shaping a tea pot or carving beautiful calligraphy in the clay by hand. It takes months to make one Zisha tea pot. Zhang's best works sell for $10,000. Works by his apprentices and students are a bargain, selling for less than $100. Nan Cui, a Chinese tea connoisseur and business consultant with Fusion Pacific Ltd. in Winnipeg, Canada, explains the difference in the Chinese and Western tea trade: "In China the tea industry is less standardized compared to the Western mass production model, where production, wholesale, and retail are clear-cut and divided among industry players."

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