A few weeks ago, I went to Xiamen on a whim to the Xiamen Tea Fair. I found out about it on my Xiamen airlines flight to Harbin in February for the winter festival. I wanted to go, then forgot about it until 1 week before it was due to start. I could just make it getting a normal 4 business day Chinese tourist visa, but somehow I couldn’t be moved to do so, and even less to pay the $200+ something for a 2 day rush visa. Then I discovered a Visa on arrival policy for Xiamen, and like that, I booked my flights and packed my bags with less than 24 hours to departure!
Fujian province in China is a major tea producing province and the ideal place to get tea. Xiamen is a city in Fujian Province. There are various tea fairs in China and Xiamen holds 2 every year, one in spring and one in autumn for each harvest. The tea fair is held in the Xiamen Exhibition and Convention Center and consists of practically everything one can remotely relate to tea.
Love tea wares? There’s HEAPS. Ceramic, pure silver, gold electroplated, glass, bamboo, copper, large, small, REALLY small, they have them all.
Want traditional Chinese clothing? There are exhibits that sell ‘tea house clothing’.
Want special paper for your tea products? Certainly. The specialty papers were very beautiful… after all, you ARE in the country of its invention.
There were also tea house furniture, decoration and design exhibits.
There were also tea pastries, bubble tea franchises, tea from Sri Lanka and India, and of course, a wide range of loose leaf teas.
The ‘types of tea’ you hear about, green, red, black and white tea, are actually the methods of processing the tea leaves went through. In Chinese tea, black tea is fully fermented and one example is Pu Er tea. Red tea is partly fermented and includes Wu Long tea (“oolong”). White tea is actually very mildly fermented whereas green tea is not fermented at all. Long Jing or Dragon Well is a roasted green tea. The same ‘type’ of tea will also taste different depending on where it is produced and the season it was grown or picked in. This is why they have a spring and autumn season, and why some people collect tea. This is also why there are thousands and thousands of types of tea. Each local area might produce their own tea that is not sold outside of their area, for example the red tea produced in the Tulou villages in Fujian is unique to that area and you will not get the same taste in other red teas elsewhere, and that East Lake Dragon Well is different to other types of Dragon Well.
Although the fair runs over 5 days and seems big and intimidating initially, the place can easily be done in one day and is free. While the spring session is over, you can register for the autumn one. The fair is something quite interesting to visit if you love tea related things. I highly recommend it if you will be in Xiamen during the next one, from October 10th-14th 2019 which is the Autumn one, or the next spring one, next May 21st-25th 2020. There is free wifi on site and they even had free shuttle buses picking up visitors from the airport to the exhibition center during the fair (for registered visitors)! Have a stroll, then taste some teas at the various stalls and maybe learn a thing or two.
The tea is steeped for a few seconds in a large cup, then the tea water is strained and poured out into the drinker’s cups and the leaves are re-steeped when the first round is drunk, because apparently, steeping tea too long is unhealthy. This includes being kept in thermos, as many people in China like to do. The tea cups might be small but you are supposed to drink it in 3 separate sips.
The fair is generally aimed at tea house and hotel/restaurant operators in China (or elsewhere) so many of the things are sold in bulk. If you really wanted a souvenir, shop around, as many of the items are similar and can be found at different stalls (except for company-unique products). Or, bring all your friends and share the load!
There is catering on site and hot water boilers. Either bring bottled water, or a thermos to collect hot water… the Chinese love their hot water even in the hot spring days. The food wasn’t bad but choices were generally limited and is made off site and brought in and stored in insulated boxes which means they are not actively heated. They were around ￥35 per lunch box and includes free hot soup from the water boiler. You can always go out to find food and come back in, entry is free and there is no limit on the number of entries. I got their chicken and mushroom with rice lunch pack and soup, must say it was quite tasty! The soup was also very nice indeed, although not looking it.
There is catering on site and hot water boilers. Either bring bottled water, or a thermos to collect hot water… the Chinese love their hot water even in the hot spring days. The food wasn’t bad but choices were generally limited and is made off site and brought in and stored in insulated boxes. You can always go out to find food and come back in, entry is free and there is no limit on the number of entries. I got their chicken and mushroom with rice lunch pack and soup, must say it was quite tasty! The soup was also very nice indeed, although not looking it.
Bring loose change in cash if you might want to buy anything. I wanted to buy some pastries but was told they had no change in cash as apparently, everyone in China uses the app Wechat, to pay, with a linked Chinese bank card. If you anticipate buying tea, make sure you find out if your country of origin will allow such things.
To encourage people to explore the whole exhibit, there is a game where you can collect stamps on the map you are given, which can then be redeemed for prizes such as a packet of tissue, shopping bag, document folder and a notebook.
Watch the video tour here.
Where did I stay?
I stayed at the Somerset Software Hotel which had a bus stop that had buses (number 18 is great, about 10-15 minutes) that went to the A1-A3 hall main entrance and registration desk. There are multiple ‘halls’ and entrances and other buses might do what is essentially a detour around the building and take you to the other end near A8. There are multiple entries and yes security checks all entries and scans all bags.
Free airport transfer!
During the fair, they provide free shuttle bus for registrants, look out for the sign at arrivals, the staff won’t necessarily have a uniform, so just ask. Buses leave when full and arrive every half hour or so.
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