As an introduction to myself, being a new writer to this blog, I would like to write about one of my favorite memories involving tea. In 2006, I was living near Guilin, China as a volunteer English teacher at a boarding school outside the city. The other teachers and I would often spend our weekends in either Guilin or the amazing nearby town of Yanghuo. This particular occasion we were in Guilin, Yangshuo is a story for another day.
Guilin and the surrounding areas are a popular destination for vacationers, both Chinese and foreigners alike. The countryside is among the most beautiful in the world. (See picture)
Because of all the tourists, street markets are a common occurrence. Even the main street of downtown Guilin would be partly shut down in the evening every week for a street market. It was on one of these nights that we met John. (Note, most Chinese people I met would only give us their adopted English names. I suppose they do that so we don't butcher the pronunciation of their given names.)
At first we thought he was just another guy in the market trying to get the "rich westerners" to buy something from his stall, but that's not what John had in mind. He approached us because he spoke English and wanted us to come sit in his shop and help him practice. We obliged and he led us to his tea shop. When we sat down with him, he had his wife get hot water and a tea pot so they could serve us tea while we talked. I don't remember the specific types of tea we drank, but as we finished each pot, John would bring out a different kind of tea and tell us about certain medicinal values it had. While we had our tea, John told us his theory about why westerners are fatter than Chinese people. He said that Chinese people drink allot of tea, and they are usually thin. Westerners don't drink as much tea, and tend to be bigger.
After about the third pot of tea, John told us about his real job. He owned the tea shop with his wife to raise money for the orphanage they ran together. He told us about the kids that lived there and some of the things they were able to do for those kids with the money from the tea shop. Sounds like he's setting up his setting up his sales pitch to dupe the westerners out into spending money right? That wasn't the case, John was just sincerely a nice guy looking for people to practice English with. He never asked us to buy or pay for anything. When he finished telling us about the orphanage, it was fairly late and we had to catch a taxi back to the school. John invited us to come back any time we were in town, but when we tried, we couldn't find his tea shop. So we were left with only one memory of John and the little orphan tea shop.