Bitter-sweet Laoba Tea
   2013-12-13 11:13:39      Web Editor: Luo Chun

Laoba Tea sculpture at the QilouLaojie in Haikou, made by Cheng Lianzhong [Photo:]

Luxurious enjoyment turns to be an affordable consumer good

Back in 1662, when the warm breeze from the Atlantic brushed across the lawn of the British Isles, the entire kingdom celebrated the marriage between King Charles II and the Portuguese princess, Catherine. Lords and royalties toasted the queen with glasses of wine, but she smiled and declined. Instead, she toasted with goblet full of a red fluid -- black tea from China.

The drink has been popular ever since. Thanks to Queen Catherine, this beverage that originated from China has spread from the British Royal Court to the country's upper class, symbolizing a luxurious lifestyle.

But the taste enjoyed among distinguished families soon made its way into the cups of commoners. Fast-forward to the summer of 2013, a warm wind blows over the Chinese coastal city along the 20 degrees north latitudinal bearing -- Haikou. In one hot afternoon, an old regular guest with salt-and-pepper hair steps into a shabby tea house among the city's downtown area. He looks at ease, rolls up his pants and sits at the simple wooden bench, asking for a pot of black tea, which only costs him three yuan (50 cents).

Unlike the elegant style of Queen Catherine and her ladies enjoying afternoon tea, Zeng Lingqu crosses his legs, drains the cup in a huge swallow and studies the color printing paper on his hand like nobody else is present. The tea he ordered is more like coffee -- with a big, long-billed teapot, a small bowl to drink and a soup spoon. What is astonishing, however, is that the bottom of the bowl-shaped teacup holds a thick layer of sugar. If you regard it as a 'tea house', it would make it sound a little bit highbrow; it is more like a breakfast tea shop. The tea house doesn't have a name and the locals call this kind of tea house as "Laoba" tea house ("Laoba" means dad).

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