Old Shanghai Tea House: "Chinese tea in Shanghai's old town" Shanghai Restaurant Tip by SWFC_Fan
Shanghai Restaurants: 439 reviews and 749 photos
I stopped off at the Old Shanghai Tea House one afternoon during a visit to Shanghai in May 2008.
This traditional tea house is located on Fangbang Zhong Road (also known as Old Street) in Shanghai’s old town. While the external appearance and the interior décor certainly give it an historic and authentic feel, the clientele and the prices left me in no doubt that this place is largely tourist oriented.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my visit there and I would recommend others to stop by for a pot of tea and some traditional Shanghai snacks, but don’t expect to be sat amongst locals going about their everyday tea drinking. Old Shanghai Tea House (like much of Old Street) has become something of a parody of Shanghai’s real old town; a somewhat sanitised, Disneyesque version.
Unsurprisingly, there are dozens of teas to choose from on the menu. For example, you’ll find Chinese green and red teas, jasmine tea, lemon tea, white tea and camomile tea. But that is just the tip of the ice berg, for there are dozens of variations of each of these teas each with its own exotic sounding name. Some of the teas cost a rather exorbitant 180 Yuan (15 GBP) per pot. As well as teas, there are coffees, soft drinks and bottled beers to choose from.
A limited food menu offering various dumplings and noodles and other local snacks is also available.
The sitting area of the tea house is located upstairs. I took a table next to one of the open windows and enjoyed the views out over bustling Old Street below. The interior décor is 1930s style, with an old piano, an old typewriter, record players, fans and historic posters and vinyl records on the walls, alongside maps from the period. Soft, gentle Chinese music played in the background throughout my stay.
I opted for:
Guangyin Green Tea - Cost: 65 Yuan / 6 GBP per pot
When the waitress brought over my pot of tea she performed a rather elaborate show of pouring my first cup. She started by washing the cups (there were two of them: a small thimble shaped one and a slightly bigger dish shaped one) with hot water from the kettle.
She then went through a long winded procedure of pouring some of the green tea leaves into a pot, adding water and draining into a larger cup. From this larger cup, she poured the tea into the thimble shaped cup, which she then tipped upside down into the dish shaped cup and began the procedure all over again. I was eventually presented with a cup of green tea (in the dish shaped cup) which was ready to drink. The waitress left me a kettle and I refilled the pot several times, drinking maybe 30 small cups worth of tea over the next hour or so. The cup was tiny, and at 65 Yuan a pot I was determined to get my money’s worth!
Shanghai Steamed Bread - Cost: 20 Yuan / 1.80 GBP
This appeared as steamed “bread” on the menu, but was actually the famous Shanghai steamed buns, or Xiao Long Bao.
I received 8 steamed dumplings, 2 portions of 4 dumplings each, served in little wooden baskets and accompanied with a dark soy sauce. The dumplings were filled with minced pork and hot oily juices and were very tasty! I’d highly recommend trying them whilst in Shanghai. They are quite difficult to eat with chopsticks, though, so I had to resort to using my fingers at times.
An historic old tea house, with a huge selection of expensive teas. Tradition has given way to tourism, but don’t let that put you off paying a visit!
Address: 385 Fangbang Zhong Lu
Price Comparison: more expensive than average
Directions: Located on Central Fangbang Road ("Old Street") in Shanghai's old town.
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