As the summer is sweltering in Leshan, the tea houses in the ornamental gardens near the Buddha offer a welcome respite: cool leafy gardens with ornamental ponds provided the perfect backdrop to a cup of tea. In this part of China, tea is served in a Gaiwan, a squat lidded tea cup and saucer. The lid is used to swirl the leaves around inside the cup and to keep the leaves out of your mouth as you drink. With a little practice, you can trap the leaves with one hand while drinking from the vessel (something A and C never quite managed to master!).
|Sichuanese gaiwan cup|
Unlike in India, where black tea is the norm, the Chinese are large producers of green tea. Green tea in fact comes from the same plant as black teas such as Darjeeling, but the leaves aren't left to oxidise, leaving the tea with a somewhat grassier taste than one expects from black teas. China is also a country of tea connoisseurs: you can pay anything from a few pence to many hundreds of pounds for a bag of leaves. A and C didn't quite push the boat out to this extent while visiting the Dafo: the 'Buddha buds' tea we sampled was fairly inexpensive (given the touristy location) at RMB30, or about £3 a cup. While the portion looks small, the cup also comes with a vacuum flask of hot water, guaranteeing you get many many refills from the same set of leaves, making for a very refreshing way to spend an hour after paying our respects to the big man himself.
|Buddha buds tea|