Inside Nanjing’s traditional teahouses

Tea is prized in Nanjing, with an annual festival dedicated to it


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Tea has been a central part of China’s heritage for over 4,000 years. So much so, it’s become a ritual that requires the utmost etiquette, attention to detail, finesse and hospitality. 

Nanjing is one of China’s tea capitals, with specialist tea markets brimming with hundreds of aromatic varieties. There’s also a signature tea leaf so difficult to prepare that only a handful of masters can produce it by hand. Carefully brewed, meticulously prepared and expertly served, a cup of tea is an essential experience at one of Nanjing’s traditional tea houses.


Yu Hua - Nanjing’s premier tea

Nanjing’s most sought-after leaf, Yu Hua, originates from the surrounding Jiangsu province. Its name translates to Rain Flower and is a nod to a legendary local Buddhist monk whose teachings caused flowers to fall from the sky. Yu Hua has a complex taste that intensifies as it brews. Refreshing and flowery, your first sips will be light and silky before the hot water unlocks sweeter, more floral flavours.

Yu Hua holds a special place in contemporary Chinese society. It is traditionally given as a gift and is the tea of choice for many government officials.

Perhaps Yu Hua’s most distinctive aspect is an elongated leaf shape that resembles a pine needle. To celebrate its harvest, visit Nanjing in April when a festival in its honour fills the streets with the fresh aromas of freshly brewed tea. Many local teahouses will sell tea sets for proper brewing, as well as freshly prepared leaves by the gram.


Where to experience the Chinese tea ceremony

Lao Cui teahouse is perhaps Nanjing’s best-known tea house, located inside the historic Nanjing city walls with traditional decor, elegantly carved, low-set wooden tables and xitan horseshoe chairs. 

For those who prefer a more modern aesthetic, Tao Hua Yan is housed in a marble-and-glass hall overlooking a forest in a hot springs complex just out of town. Its bamboo interior adds a contemporary spin to the tea ceremony with bold ox-bow tables  in front of floor-to-ceiling windows.

The historic Muslim-style teahouse, Kui Guang Ge, was once used to entertain those who passed the imperial civil service exams at the Confucius temple across the street, while at the Wo Cha teahouse perched on the top floor of Nanjing’s Xin Hua bookstore, an in-house team of tea experts will brew fresh leaves to perfection for you.

The Jumeirah Nanjing on the south bank of the Yangtze River in Nanjing’s Hexi Central Business District is the perfect base from which to explore Nanjing’s traditional teahouses.