Last year while I was strolling through the streets of Dali in China’s Yunnan province, I passed by a quaint little tea shop called Do Not Envy The Immortal Teahouse. Popping my head around the corner of the door to take a closer peek, I was immediately greeted with a warm smile from the owner and invited inside. The owner was a young woman named Chen Chen and we immediately liked each other for our shared admiration of rustic traditional Chinese décor. With regret, I wasn’t able to stay long as I was travelling with a friend who had zero affinity for tea, so I quickly added Chen Chen to my social media network and we parted ways. Later, to my delight, I discovered Chen Chen’s flair for photography, shooting some of the most beautiful tea pictures I’d ever seen.
Remarking on what traditional Chinese tea culture means to her, Chen Chen says: “By being fully present in the art of tea preparation, your mind calms down, your pace slows down, and your heart is mended by the peace and tranquillity. For me, clearing the mind and connecting with others are inseparable features of tea.”
Commenting on her photography, Chen Chen says: “I’m never satisfied with a photo that’s planned out in advance. A photo will only be touching and vivid if it is recorded whilst in the midst of an act of spontaneity. I’m a curious person who loves life and loves exploring the beauty of this world, and tea is an integrated part of that.”
Chen Chen also likes taking photographs of her son preparing and tasting tea. Asking her how she saw children benefiting from Chinese tea culture, Chen Chen responds: “It goes beyond the physical health benefits to the spiritual health benefits. Although we live in a technological era, we also must still connect with poetry, etiquette, history and tradition, and this can all be done through tea. Thus it is imperative that us Chinese people – both young and old – study and practice ‘the way of tea’.”
If you are ever in Dali and would like to visit Chen Chen’s tea shop, her address is: 云南省大理州大理古城玉洱路437号不羡仙茶舍.
About the Author
Jaq James is the Founder of The Artisan Tea Hut and is a Contributing Editor for Tea Journey Magazine. She splits her time between China's tea regions and Australia's capital.