There’s a common scam in China where a seemingly-friendly Chinese person will approach you and invite you to try a teahouse. You’ll go and have a cup or two, but at the end you’ll end up with an exorbitant bill totaling 600RMB or more. If you try to leave, the owners will accuse you of trying to run without paying the bill, and they’ll threaten to call the police. And there may even be people blocking the exit, forcing you to pay through intimidation. Most tourists, not trusting the local law enforcement, end up paying to get out.
My friends and I were exploring Yu Garden, and we thought it would be nice to visit a teahouse. Not wanting to end up in a shady place, we consulted a Lonely Planet guidebook, which recommended Old Shanghai Teahouse. Side note, I never understood why the metro stop is listed as Yuyuan Garden. It’s redundant, as yuán already means garden in Chinese.
Old Shanghai Teahouse is decorated with lots of memorabilia from the 1940s, and on the day we visited we were graced with relaxing music from two gentlemen who apparently only play in the teahouse for a couple of hours in the mornings.
The server spoke English and was very patient while explaining all the different teas to us. We ordered the Long Jin green tea (50 RMB). The tea was quite light. The server told us not to seep it for too long or else it would be bitter; he was right. In my opinion, any seeping time longer than 30-45 seconds was bitter.
We also had a blooming jasmine tea (50 RMB). It’s fun to see the dried flower transform as it seeps in the hot water. This tea was light and crisp with hints of sweetness. Out of the three, this was my favorite in regards to taste. The pretty flower probably contributed as well.
Finally, we had the Guang Yin Kung Fu Tea (65 RMB). The server said that this was a popular choice, but I feel as if it was only popular because it’s the one he usually recommends. He also informed us that this particular tea would be bitter at first but gets sweeter as you continue drinking it. The bitterness never really went away for me, but I did feel as if this tea was refreshing. It’s slight yet not overly bitterness would probably be good for curbing overeating. With this particular tea, the server also performed a tea ceremony involving cleaning the cup with hot water and pouring out the first cup of tea.
Old Shanghai Teahouse is extremely touristy, with the prices to match, but it’s quiet, safe, and the tea isn’t fake. In my opinion, one tea type is enough for two people – don’t feel pressured to try all the Chinese teas presented on the menu. I wouldn’t recommend putting tea tasting at Old Shanghai Teahouse as a must-do item, but I do admit that it was a very relaxing experience.
While exploring further, we happened upon a little guy hanging out, just chilling, after recently receiving a good washing. Or at least that’s what we wanted to believe. He could have also been receiving some form of punishment.
Old Shanghai Teahouse
No.385 Fangbing Middle Road
Huangpu District, Shanghai, China