Chinese Tea Guide

On the day of his wedding, Mr Hu and his wife purchased a cake of pu’er tea and enjoyed a cup together. Now every year on their anniversary, they sit down together and infuse another cup of tea from their wedding “cake”. Mr Hu explains that pu’er, like good wine, develops more complex flavours as it ages, so he and his wife discuss how the pu’er has changed and improved – a metaphor for their marriage that has also passed another year in the same house.

Mr Hu’s romanticisation of tea spills into his technical knowledge of the drink, turning even the simplest drinking procedures into a beautifully complex art form. In between sips of oolong tea, Mr Hu explains the “san kou” or “three mouths” of tea drinking in Fujian province. Oolong is a feast for the eyes, which serve as the first mouth, and one should evaluate the leaves and appreciate their beauty before infusing with water, he says. After brewing the tea, the drinker should then inhale the aroma of the tea to activate the second mouth: the nose. Finally the tea should reach the third mouth, literally this time when the drinker sips the warm beverage. Mr Hu then patiently instructs the best way to drink the tea, a multifaceted approach to ensure the drinker fully appreciates the flavour by hitting all of the tongue receptors in sequential order.

A quiet philosopher, Mr Hu preaches the gospel of tea to all his visitors. Hanks and his younger brother, Roger, have become his disciples, creating Hanks Brothers, an ecommerce site that sells the tea master’s wares around the world, along with helpful brewing tips that highlight the intricacies of each individual tea.

Hanks, who is practically fluent in Mandarin, has undertaken the demanding task of writing the website’s blog, which, with the help of Mr Hu’s encyclopaedic knowledge of tea, could easily trump the best of the internet’s English-language tea content. Together, the tea master and his disciple are building a virtual Silk Road that will demystify authentic Chinese tea for the English-speaking masses.