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How to make your tea a taste treat
By Xu Xiaomin

CHINA is famous for its tea, but selecting a good brew - there are six kinds of Chinese tea including green, red, greenish black, yellow, white and black - like picking a good wine, requires a connoisseur.

"Tea on the market is of various grades, it's difficult for a layman to discern the quality of tea," said Liu Qigui, secretary-general of the Shanghai Tea Association. So Shanghai Star invited Liu to recommend some good stores where you can be assured of top quality cha.

Where to buy good tea

The Centre of Tea from Home and Abroad at No 137 to No 147 on Daming Road. Here you have a wide choice of over 1,000 kinds of teas of different grades including home-grown and imported tea.

Shanghai No 1 Food Store on Nanjing Road East also has counters selling Chinese tea. It is one of the most accessible, many buses and the metro line take you straight there.

Shanghai Zhejiang Tea Store at No 333 Fujian Road Middle specializes in Longjing tea - the best green tea. The store has very good turnover, with daily sales of over 200,000 yuan ($24,200). Longjing is characterized by its green colour, strong aroma and pure taste.

Xuyou (translates as "talking with friends") Tea Store has 20 outlets with its headquarters at No 851 Huaihai Road Middle. This is the place to shop if you're looking for tea exquisitely packaged for a present.

Cheng Yu Xin Tea Store at No 53 Zhejiang Road Middle was established 163 years ago, making it the oldest tea store in Shanghai. It features tea from Anhui Province. The store sells wild tea at over 200 yuan ($24) for 50 gram. Wild teas are free from pesticide and chemical fertilizers.

Good teapot to suit tea

A good teapot is an essential part of the tea-drinking ritual. Generally speaking, big tea stores stock all the things you need for making tea. But there are some stores which specialize and so give you a wider choice.

According to Liu, a good teapot should pass two important tests: first, the lid should fit the pot very snugly; second, water should flow easily from the spout without spilling.

Experts say a teapot gains a natural gloss as it is used over time, which raises its value. So don't just put it on the shelf as an ornament - use it!

Xu Sihai Teapot Store at No 322 Xingguo Road has top quality teapots ranging from 8,000 yuan ($967) to over 20,000 yuan ($2,400) which are designed and made by Xu Sihai, a well-known teapot maker.

If you want cheap ones, try Chenghuang Temple and a market at the intersection of Jinshajiang and Meichuan roads. Their quality is inferior but a few dozen yuan will buy you one that does the job.

General ideas on tea

How to make tea

Generally speaking, 2 or 3 grams of tea are enough or the tea will be too bitter. Boiled purified water and mineral water are better. The more ripe the tea, the longer you should let it stand. Tender tea should only be brewed a much shorter time.

How much tea is good for the health?

Three to five grams of tea every day will benefit the health. Over 50 per cent of the protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and fat contained in tea will be absorbed by the human body.

Copyright 2000 by Shanghai Star. All rights reserved.