Last week, one of my older guests came back from his first day of touring in Shanghai. He had been to the museums around People’s Park and Square area. He told me about this tea ceremony he attended at the invitation of two students who struck up a conversation with him in the park. Right away, I knew he had been scammed, because last year, one of my apartment guests also got approached in a similar fashion. My guest said he kind of knew it was a scam toward the end as well, when they told him the bill was $1700RMB. He managed to talk the price down to $680RMB and was escorted to the ATM to withdraw money to pay. I asked him if he wanted to report them to the police (he had the biz card of the tea shop also) but he said other than the price tag, he had a wonderful time with the people, who spoke excellent English. He even took photos with the people who scammed him. I felt bad about not warning him ahead of time, so I’m doing this post now to help future tourists avoid it.
Given the price is reasonable (I think $100-200RMB per person including snacks is ok, and you really don’t need to go for expensive teas if you are a novice at tea), attending a tea ceremony is really a pleasant thing. You get to sample and learn about the different teas from China — the dragon well green tea from Hangzhou, the amber-color, semi-fremanted oolong or iron goddess (tie kuan yin), and the aged, earthy tasting puerh tea, among many many others. My personal favorite is the Yunnan black tea “dian hong”, which is a lot milder than the Indian black teas and very aromatic. A good way to try out the teas is to find a neighborhood tea shop (ideally away from the very touristy areas) and ask the owner to let you do some tasting before you buy.