The traditional Chinese tea ceremony, gongfucha, is typically seasonally inspired. For example, it is customary to drink black tea in the winter and green tea in the summer and to pair tea with foods and other accouterments, like fruit, flowers or incense, that engage all 5 senses with the season.
At the Aman at the Summer Palace in Beijing, they offer a daily gongfucha ceremony each afternoon. If you are visiting Beijing, I recommend the Aman for one of the most beautiful tea experiences in town.
This December, we were served a slightly smoky Lapsang Souchong and an earthy Shou Pu-erh that had been aged in the rind of a bittersweet mandarin.
Bowls of ripe, lush persimmons contrasted the icy, dry air outside.
The Pu-erh reminded us of an Italian Christmas bread, panettone, made with spices and dried fruits and citrus rind.
Incense was burning and five of us sat around in big, ornate Cantonese chairs chatting and sipping for an hour.
THE SUMMER PALACE
After tea, you can walk, through a secret door, from the Aman to the Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site, built in the 12th century. It is the perfect place for a quiet afternoon walk away from the hustle of the city.
Occupying 1 square mile, it is covered with lakes, pavilions, bridges and wooded hills.
The landscape architecture, golden temples, intricate paintings and statues are as astounding today as they were in the 12th Century, when the Jin dynasty ruler moved the capital to Beijing and commissioned the Summer Palace in the northwest section of the city.