Although drinking in traditional tea houses is more of a novelty in Beijing these days, tea culture in the city is still alive and kicking. From taxi drivers to street vendors, most locals will keep a flask of tea at close quarters throughout the working day.
Whilst you are able to pick up a good variety of teas at most supermarkets across Beijing, for tourists looking for the best price and selection, as well as a more authentic tea buying experience, the following tea retailers come highly recommended.
1. Maliandao Tea Market - the Biggest Tea Center in Beijing
- Address: 11 Maliandao Street, Guang'anmenwai, Xuanwu District (宣武区马连道路11号)
Best known as Tea Street, this bustling collection of tea stores is, whilst not a street, the biggest tea center of Beijing.
A series of streets and multi-story market buildings house close to 1,000 tea vendors supplying locals and tourists with teas from all four corners of China. It offers visitors an insight into China's tea culture and its storied past, and is the closest thing in China, or any other country for that matter, to a tea-drinker's heaven.
Whilst most of the sellers don't understand or speak English, they are generally accommodating and happy to offer tastings and samples to potential customers.
As such, it is best to visit Tea Street with a Chinese speaking guide or a translated list of the teas you are after. The vendors are used to selling teas wholesale, but you can still pick up small quantities for a very fair price.
Teas to Try
It is at Maliandao that you will find some of the best teas from China's most famous tea-growing regions. A few must-tries, whether buying or simply sampling are:
- Iron Goddess (Tiěguānyīn 铁观音) from southern Fujian Province - Ask for a variety of Iron Goddess that is grown under peach trees, giving it a peachy aroma.
- Dragon Well(Lóngjǐng 龙井) is the best-known, and most conventional Chinese green tea originating in Zhejiang Province.
- Dahongpao (大红袍) is a more expensive, premium-quality oolong tea grown on the slopes of the famous Wuyi Mountain.
Most stores in Maliandao will stock all of these teas so shop around for the best variety and price.
Whether you are a seasoned tea drinker looking for something special or in search of an authentic, reasonably priced Chinese tea to take home as a souvenir, Maliandao is the place to buy tea in Beijing.
2. Yandai Xiejie - One of the Oldest Hutongs in Beijing
- Address: Yandai Byway, Xicheng District (西城区烟袋斜街)
The attraction of Yandai Xiejie is as much in the experience as the tea on offer. Located within the network of hutongs surrounding Houhai Lake, it offers a chance to roam the streets of old Beijing in search of China's most popular drink.
Whilst shops along this hutong sell all manner of souvenirs, there are several tea shops stocking a good range of products as well as teapots, cups, and other accessories. Most of the tea shops along Yandai Street will sell large bricks of tea as well as loose leaf tea from jars (allowing you to choose exactly how much you want).
Although stores will occasionally have samples to give out, you generally have to rely on smell and appearance to pick out a tea you want. If you don't have the time or inclination to visit a dedicated tea market then Yandai Xiejie is a great place to buy tea whilst exploring one of Beijing's most lively hutongs.
3. Xiushui Street - a Typical Asian Market
- Address: Guiyou Mansion (west side), East Chang'an Street (northern section) 东长安街路北，贵友大厦的西边
Silk Street, also known as Xiushui Street, is a famous shopping market in Beijing, as well as an international tourism shopping resort. Many foreign tourists are attracted by the cheapness and variety of goods sold there.
Originally, Silk Street mainly traded in traditional Chinese silk articles, exquisite handicrafts, and imported commodities. But now, besides silk and travel souvenirs, it sells more of a variety of goods, such as tea, clothes, bags and suitcases, shoes, hats, pearls, and decorations.
Due to the short distance to Legation Quarter, customers who go shopping in the street are mainly foreigners living in Beijing and tourists traveling around Beijing, most of whom are Russians and Eastern Europeans. Most of the retailers in the street are able to communicate with foreign customers by using a few simple English words to sell their goods.
Bargaining is needed. If you want to go shopping for cut-price sales, Silk Street is a better choice, because Xidan and Wangfujing are purely commercial districts (with no bargaining allowed).
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4. Sanyuanli Market - Close to the Embassy District
- Address: Sanyuanli Market, Shunyuan Street (三源里市场顺源街)
Within Sanyuanli Market, located 1 kilometer north of Sanlitun Village in the east of the city, there are several tea stalls that stock a variety of green, oolong, and black teas from across China, as well as some more unusual flower teas.
Because the market caters to a large number of foreigners living in Beijing, the sellers speak enough English to help you find the tea you want and, as they rely on return business, they generally charge a fair price.
The market is in close proximity to a number of popular Beijing hotels and offers better quality tea at a lower price than local supermarkets or souvenir shops. Similar markets are scattered throughout the city and, whilst most will offer a similar, if not larger, selection of teas, the fact that sellers at Sanyuanli speak English makes it a good option for visitors.
As well as these places, you can also buy good quality tea in some famous teahouses in Beijing.
Tea Shopping with China Highlights
If you are interested in buying tea or simply browsing for it, then a tailored tour can be arranged to include Beijing's tea markets, providing knowledgeable guides with useful shopping tips.