A popular place to buy tea in Beijing, Wuyutai (吴裕泰)has over 180 stores across the city. You’ll find them in the popular tourist shopping streets like Qianmen or Wangfujing. But most, discreet and unpretentious, are seamlessly blended into the capital’s urban landscape. They seem to have been there forever. Well, almost. The first shop was opened 125 years ago, which, for the ever-changing Beijing, is almost an eternity. The notion of the “Old Beijing” is quite elusive for me, as I came here during the pre-Olympics construction boom, when major surgeries on the city’s face had been already operated. Nevertheless, I do feel this shop has a certain old Beijing flavor and do think that the status of “China time-honored brand” (中华老字号) fits it well.
Tea is among the necessity goods for Chinese, which means: it has to be readily available, of consistent quality and not overpriced. I think Wuyutai shops cater precisely for that.
No wonder that Wuyutai’s bestseller is jasmine-scented tea, or Mo Li Hua Cha (茉莉花茶), the preferred drink of local Beijingers. Jasmine tea makes up a good deal of Wuyutai reputation and almost half of its sales. In the stores, jasmine fragrance dominates all the rest. Jasmine tea here comes in all possible shapes and grades, with prices that can fit every budget.
Besides jasmine tea, Wuyutai has a good generalist selection of all major tea types. Nothing too fancy, just consistently good.
Their offer of green teas is quite standard, but it goes a bit wider than the ubiquitous and quite pricey Long Jing, Bi Luo Chun and Huang Shan Mao Feng. You can find here green teas like Zhu Ye Qing竹叶青, Xin Yang Mao Jian (信阳毛尖) and An Ji Bai Cha (安吉白茶). The selection of black teas is limited to Qimen from Anhui and Dian Hong from Yunnan, as well as Zhen Shan Xiao Zhong (known to foreigners as Lapsang Suchong), but this is understandable: black tea is not the most popular tea among locals.
For oolongs, they sell Tie Guan Yin and Da Hong Pao, as well as some Taiwanese oolongs. But in no way are oolongs Wuyutai’s specialty. Pu Er tea is there as well, but the offer is not spectacular. Last but not least, at Wuyutai you can find prepacked tins of white tea Bai Hao Yin Zhen and Bai Mu Dan all over the year. Otherwise, they have tea snacks, gift boxes and usual tea paraphernalia.
Basic English is spoken in the shops in the tourist areas. Tasting is not systematically offered. On the last visit to Wuyutai Wangfujing store, the tea house on the first floor seemed to me a bit gloomy and uninviting. If I were a tourist, I would rather go to their Qianmen store. Impossible to miss it – it’s just next the gate of the northern entrance of the street.