This story from the China Daily: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/video/2010-12/21/content_11732309.htm
This video story is well worth a view .. below is the text and some related pictures:
Time-honored teahouse a master of jasmine heritage
By Wang Wen (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-09 08:01
While regular green tea is preferred in springtime, often the jasmine scent is added in for summer. With a range of flavors produced by differing green tea bases and proportions of jasmine, only veteran tea drinkers can tell the finer subtleties of the popular beverage.
Wuyutai, famous for its jasmine tea, is a Beijing brand with a history dating back to 1887 that can do just that. More than just sell the stuff, Wuyutai is in the middle of an application to make jasmine tea part of the city's intangible cultural heritage. The history of the teahouse is encapsulated in its name. Wu Xiqing, its founder, came from Anhui province to open a tea store in Beijing in late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Wu named the shop Yutai, which was later updated to include his family name.
Wuyutai is most famous for its secret jasmine tea recipe - a sought-after proportion of green tea and jasmine that rings the right note for tea lovers. According to tradition, the recipe is passed down to the male members of the family - until now. The current descendent and manager is Sun Danwei, a woman with a nose for tea.
The growth of Wuyutai has been rapid. Despite the long history, its current brand name was only registered in 1997. Over the last 23 years it has blossomed, with 180 stores now functioning in Beijing. "We produce hundreds of kinds of jasmine tea," said Chen Xi, a representative for Wuyutai. "More than 45 percent of sales in our stores are from jasmine tea."
The company also released nine jasmine teas for the Shanghai Expo in 2010. Chen added that they are focusing on diversifying their products, with creations such as tea food, tea ice cream and tea candies. "Tea candy, with green tea and jasmine tea flavors, will be our main product next year," Chen said.
Wuyutai is a name known to almost every tea lover in Beijing. First established in 1887, Wuyutai enjoys fame as one of the Time-Honored Brands of China, and is well-known for its high-quality tea products and hospitable service.
The history of the teahouse is encapsulated in its name. Wu Xiqing, its founder, came from Anhui province to open a tea store in Beijing during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Wu named the shop Yutai, which was later updated to include his family name. Wuyutai is most famous for its secret jasmine tea recipe - a sought-after mixture of green tea and jasmine that rings the right note for tea lovers. And it is in the process of applying to make jasmine tea part of Beijing's intangible cultural heritage.
After over a century's development, Wuyutai Tea House, which was renamed Beijing Wuyutai Tea Co in 2005, has more than 190 chain stores, two tea houses and two stylish tea cuisine restaurants. For over 120 years, Wuyutai has been holding up its traditional tea producing methods and has won high reputation and credibility among generations of tea lovers. People in Beijing like to go to tea houses. In olden days, they used to be the center of social activity. Nowadays, tea houses are still considered an ideal venue for socializing. The preparation of tea is an important part of the Chinese tea culture. Different kinds of tea require different methods of preparation. Offering tea is considered a sign of respect, courtesy and gratitude.
Along with Wuyutai's renowned traditional tea products, the company has developed various new products to expand its market share; namely, tea-flavored moon cakes, ice cream, candy and cuisines. At the end of 2006, Wuyutai recovered an old tea cuisine recipe that belonged to Wu Xiqing, who was also a gourmet cook and was keen on introducing tea elements to traditional Chinese cuisines. At the Refreshments and Cuisine of Wuyutai Court (Wuyutai Nei Fu Dishes), you can not only enjoy tea beverages, but also taste tea-related cuisines. Wuyutai advocates a healthy and natural way of eating. The dishes on its menu are mouthwatering and creative.
For instance, Puer Tea with Natural Fried Chrysanthemum is cooked so delicately from fresh chrysanthemum flowers without losing the natural shape or color of the flower. And the Puer tea on the side neutralizes the flower's coolness with its warmth. Fresh Shrimps with Biluo Tea is quite fun to eat. The teapot alongside the shrimp is an automatic dark-red enamel pot, which pours tea automatically as soon as a cup is placed on the base.
And the "brushes" on this pallet are not made for Chinese calligraphy but for your stomach. This snack is made of wheat flour mixed with cubilose, shark's fin, snow clam and papaya. The ink-like stuff on the inkstone is actually blueberry sauce. You can also choose chili sauce if you prefer. And one appetizer is made from French goose liver and green tea pudding. There's a piece of Kuding tea leaf on each cube of pudding. The appetizer combines the bitterness of Kuding tea with the scent of green tea, as well as the creamy texture of goose liver.
Eating at the Wuyutai theme restaurant is more than just a tea banquet. While you are dinning here, you can also feel the traditional Chinese tea culture and see how it was rejuvenated under Wuyutai's business philosophy.
Sinking your teeth into a tea banquet
According to Chinese tea culture, different kinds of tea have different characteristics that complement different flavors.
For example, Puer Tea with Natural Fried Chrysanthemum, one of the signature dishes at The Refreshments and Cuisine of Wuyutai Court, which offers more than 100 dishes relating to tea. The dish is simply carefully fried chrysanthemum flowers, which while it may sound easy is actually not that simple - it is a difficult technique to keep the flower perfectly in shape.
"The cook needs to pour hot oil on the flowers very quickly and the flowers also need to be dipped into some egg white," said Tang Haiyan, deputy manager of Wuyutai Court. Because the hot oil is only poured onto the chrysanthemum flower and the stamen and pistil does not touch any oil, they remain tender and fresh and the fragrance of the chrysanthemum is retained along with the flower's refreshing coolness.
Above: The exterior of Wuyutai Court, in Dongzhimen, which is also the former residence of founder Wu Xiqing.
Below: The restaurant's dining rooms are extremely traditional in design.
The same principle applies to Fresh Shrimps with Biluo Tea, although the teapot for Biluo Tea is probably even more special than the dish itself. It is an automatic dark-red enamel pot, which can pour tea automatically as soon as a cup is put on the base of the teapot. However, the tea at Wuyutai Court is not only for drinking, it's also for eating. To make the appetizer French Goose Liver with Kuding Tea, the cook puts a piece of broadleaf holly leaf, which is known as Kuding Tea in China, on a piece of French goose liver with green tea pudding.
The appetizer combines the bitterness of Kuding Tea with the scent of green tea, as well as the creamy texture of goose liver. After the main course, the restaurant offers the day's dessert - a Chinese brush. No joke.
The four treasures of the Chinese calligraphy - brush, ink, paper and inkstone - are offered in a pallet, but the essence is the brush. The "brush" is made of wheat flour mixed with cubilose, shark's fin, snow clam and pawpaw. The wheat flour is arranged artistically into a real brush pot and a Chinese traditional cooking technique named paisu is used to give the material more layers and a crispy texture. The ink in the inkstone is actually blueberry sauce which gives the brush sweet and sour taste. You can choose chili sauce if you prefer.
Although tea is not in all the dishes, the restaurant, which advocates a healthy and natural way of life, only uses green tea seed oil in its kitchen. Most of the dishes cannot be found outside the court, simply because their techniques were kept secret by Wu Xiqing - who founded Wuyutai more than a century ago. In fact, Wu's compiled recipes were only discovered from a wall in the Wuyutai Beixinqiao head office, which used to be Wu's house, in late 2006.
Wuyutai Court, which used to be Wu's residence, are located in Dongzhimen. The compound is a three-floor building with three courtyards, which can accommodate 220 guests at one time. The first floor serves as the reception area and the first floor is the main hall of the restaurant. There is a platform named Mingxi Park on the first floor where folk artists perform between 7 pm and 9 pm every Monday to Saturday. The average cost in this area is on the high side, about 150 yuan a head.
Ten private dinning rooms are located on the second floor, featuring architectural elements from Anhui province, Wu's hometown. Each room is decorated with gray bricks, Chinese-style antiquated furniture and carved doors. The lotus pool and birdcage on the second floor add vitality. The third floor is the compound's back yard, where high-level cadres and celebrities used to dine in the past. Now, the third floor remains exclusive as there are only five private dining rooms, which are open to members only, who can enjoy tea banquet menus tailor-made for them. The average cost is around 500 yuan per person.
Wuyutai is one of Beijing's most respected time-honored businesses. It opened its first theme restaurant in Dongzhimen on Aug 8, 2008 to coincide with the opening with the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Their second restaurant was launched on Sept 9, 2009 in the Jinbao Place on Jinbao Street. Although the second restaurant is in a shopping mall, it still follows the three-yard format and is divided into the same three areas with the Dongzhimen compound.