When you work with people from China, it is not unusual that they give you tea when they visit. Here is a picture of some of the packages of tea that I have been given by suppliers and coworkers from China during their visits over the years. When I went to China, I spent 2 weeks there and drank Chinese tea at many meals. I didn't think it was anything special. It is served hot and I thought it was weak. I always drank it at any meal when it was offered mainly because I thought it was something that I could trust. During the week that I was in Xiamen, one of the guys from the supplier we were visiting asked me if I liked the Chinese tea. When I told him I did, he said he wanted to get me some really good tea to take home with me.
My last night in mainland China, we went shopping for tea. We went to a mall to do our shopping. We went to a little shop in the mall that just sold tea. There was an old lady in the store and the guy negotiated with her. The tea was in little boxes and my Chinese friend would go around to the different boxes and pick up the tea, break it and smell of it. I have no idea what he was looking for. Every once in a while he would comment or question the old lady in Chinese. It sounded like they were arguing most of the time. I’m not sure if he couldn’t find what he wanted or didn’t like the price but we left that store without any tea.
Next we went to the basement level of the mall. The primary store there was a Wal-Mart. Yes, Wal-Mart was in the basement of the Chinese mall. The layout of the store was really similar to an American Wal-Mart. My friend asked a clerk about tea and they showed us to an aisle with several boxes of tea. They even had American brands like Lipton. The guy couldn’t find anything he wanted and seemed to be frustrated that he couldn’t smell of the tea. He grabbed some boxes of tea similar to the ones in the picture but he continued to look around the store and ask about tea.
They finally showed us an area of the store that looked like the deli in an American Wal-Mart. One think I noticed was a big pile of unbagged rice in the middle of the floor. Then there was a counter with several glass containers of different teas. My friend started smelling of several different kinds and finally found one that he liked. The clerk prepared two bags of tea for me. The best way to describe these is they were unmarked Ziploc bags containing a green, leafy substance with a strong odor that wasn’t contained by the bag. I knew right away that I was NOT going to get on a plane headed to the United States with that tea. I had seen too many drug sniffing dogs and guards with semi-automatic weapons in the airports on my way over to risk bringing these bags home with me. I was pushing it to even fitting them in my luggage. So, the room keeping staff at my hotel received a nice tip consisting of two bags of what appeared to be good Chinese tea from their local Wal-Mart.
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