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Old Beijingers love jasmine tea. Unlike black tea, the preferred drink of the upper classes in Britain, Beijingers’ tea has always been associated with the lower classes, and is regarded more like a life philosophy than simply just a beverage. A good cup of tea should never take up more than 70 percent of the vessel it’s being served in, symbolising the respectful space people leave for each other. It’s said that the stronger the tea, the more welcome a guest will feel. Here’s a list of where to buy the best tea in Beijing.
With over 200 branches all over Beijing, this tea shop, dating back to 1887 is no doubt the flagship of the business. The brand’s founder, Wu Yutai, brought some tea leaves from his hometown in Anhui Province with him while escorting a candidate to Beijing for the imperial examinations. His brew became an instant hit among his Beijing neighbors, who then encouraged him to start his tea business in the city. Wuyutai Tea is known for its Anhui teas, including the Qimen Black Tea, Lu’an Melon Seed Tea, and Taiping Houkui Green Tea. Some branches have even begun to sell green and jasmine tea flavored ice cream.
Founded in 1900, Zhang Yiyuan is another Beijing institution. Its founder, surnamed Zhang, was also from Anhui Province, and brought the tea from his hometown to Beijing. Legend has it that “Yiyuan” is borrowed from an old verse from I Ching: “Yi Yuan Fu Shi, Wan Xiang Geng Xin,” which has an auspicious meaning: Everything has a fresh start in the beginning of a new year. The jasmine tea served here has an unforgettable taste.