Discovering an ancient Chinese art and it could be just your cup of tea

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ONE FOR THE POT: Wan Ling and James Grayland and, harvesting the leaves in China

As we hustle and bustle about in life, it is easy to understand why most of us, when we fancy a cuppa, grab a tea bag from the box, fling it in a cup or ahem, a mug, add boiling water and stir, for maybe 40 seconds if we are lucky.

We forget tea is an ancient art, an alchemy combining technique and taste and one which dates as far back as 141 BC, when remnants of tea leaves were disinterred from the tomb of an emperor in the Western Zhou dynasty in China.

While the art of tea is ancient, teahouse culture is a more recent development and one which found fullest expression between 1900 and 1950.

BRANCHING OUT: The Wan Ling Tea House in Shanghai now has a branch in Blandford
BRANCHING OUT: The Wan Ling Tea House in Shanghai now has a branch in Blandford

When I heard that the award-winning Wan Ling Tea House shop is based in Blandford, I was suitably impressed and of course, wanted to find out more.

Growing up surrounded by tea in AnXi Fulian, it is little surprise Wan Ling opened her own shop, the eponymous Wan Ling Tea House, which stands in Shanghai, in the heart of the French Concession on YongJia Road. And when James Grayland found himself in China with his work and began Chinese lessons with Wan Ling, love blossomed and the Wan Ling Tea House in Blandford was born.

China produces every conceivable style of tea, from delicate green teas to heady florals, sweet Oolong to fruity black teas. And the Wan Ling Tea House blends tea lovers from opposite sides of the world to bring carefully selected loose leaf teas to your kitchens and give people a true taste of this ancient art and explore the fascinating world of tea.

And every year for the last decade, Wan Ling Tea House has won awards in The Great taste Awards for their niche, full leaf teas.

James said: “We are very proud that we have managed, even with only between one and three entries per year, to win an award every year for 10 years in a row. On top of this we have received six three star awards and one golden fork. Most of our teas are very niche, unblended, full leaf teas. Certainly not mainstream.

“Our aim has been to try and raise awareness of loose leaf tea and try to break the myth that it is inconvenient. It can be very daunting for some people dealing with all the different names of the teas, so again, trying to make loose leaf accessible is very important.”

James added: “Whether you are new to tea and looking for a simple introduction to tea that is convenient and accessible, or a tea aficionado looking to delve into the depths of tea culture we hope to have something for you.”

For those living or travelling to Shanghai, James and Wan Ling would love to welcome you to their teahouse, if you are staying closer to home go to wanlingteahouse.com

By Karen Bate

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