The Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware proved to be another free and interesting look into the culture of Hong Kong.With the history of over 170 years, the Flagstaff House originally served as the office and residence of the Commander of the British Forces in Hong Kong.
Now, the various rooms house wall panels describing species of tea plants, methods of tea processing and tea drinking traditions. However, the greater portion of floorspace is (as expected) given over to the exhibition of tea pots, bowls and cups.
From humble clay vessels to exquisitely decorated bone china serving sets there was much to feast the eyes on. An especially entertaining area was where the top entries from the m 11th edition of the “Tea Wares by Hong Kong Potters” were showcased.
I had no idea that proper teapots were held to such exacting standards as to ratio of bowl to spout, height of spout to handle to lid and so on. Then again, several of the competition entries seemed to take great licence and opt for art over practicality. Some of my favourites, whether classical or unconventional are shown here.
We noticed as we were leaving around 5 pm that there had been a tea ceremony demonstration at 4:20. Given the date of 4/20 we joked about what kind of leaves they were actually brewing. At the other end of the spectrum, the children’s play space was very sweet. Of course it was set up to facilitate that classic play date, the team party.
Finally, we hit the gift shop. I was keen for Duncan to have some really good green tea, rather than the bagged floor sweepings he drinks at home daily. He sniffed various samples and settled for a small package.
I took advantage of the clerk’s knowledge to ask about the rounds of black tea I had purchased in Xishuanbana China in Nov. 2017. I selected it on the recommendation of a fellow customer and really didn’t know what It was.
I must say I was pleased when the gal’s face lit up as she looked at the photo of the wrapper I had on my phone. She took us to the showcase and explained that I had the same pur’eh tea from the same village as one of the discs the museum had on offer.
The difference, she explained, was that the one in the shop was Sheng Pu-erh (the raw or green type) whereas what I have at home is Shou Pu-erh (the ripe or black type).
Both are made from fresh tea leaves that were picked, quickly roasted, sun-dried and then steamed. However, the ripe/black type goes through a fermentation process ( as do all black or red teas).
An internet search taught me that there are a lot of factors at play in tea prices. As well as the species, in this case pur’eh from Yunnan province, and the factor of whether the leaf is raw/green or ripe/fermented, like wine, prices also depends on altitude, soil quality, terroir, production year (vintage) and other nuanced factors.
So, although I cannot make a true comparison between the two, given the raw pu’er tea at the Flagstaff House Tea Museum was priced at $204CDN for the round I am pretty pleased to have purchased three rounds of ripe/black pur’eh from the same village for a total of $50. When the shopkeeper told me it was local tea I had no idea it was one of the most prized species of “all the tea in China.”