A Little Piece of Mine

Something’s Brewing in Old Shanghai


Jasmin flower tea at the Old Shanghai Tea House is a thing of delight. A jasmine blossom scrunched into a leafy ball gently transforms before my very eyes into a mini flower bed in steaming water. Just the requisite drop of whimsy in these surrounds. The slender old Tea House echoes the 30s, 40s and 50s with its idiosyncratic decor: a wooden stereoscope here, a gramophone there, a dusty vacuum cleaner loitering floorside, a typewriter, a sewing machine, walls of vintage photos, posters and records, even a bag of Shanghai ‘Happiness’ flour propped in a corner. Tucked away on the second floor of Middle Fangbang Rd, we passed it three times before we finally pinpointed the low key stairway marked #385. Initially we’d ploughed our way through crowds in the Yu Yuan Bazaar en route to the the Mid Lake Pavillion/Hu Xin Ting Tea House – the zig zag bridge designed to stop bad spirits offering no defence against marauding tourists. Choking clouds of cigarette smoke and a distinct lack of quirky decor convinced us we were in the wrong brew house. Late afternoon in the Old Shanghai Tea House, windows wide open to the street, shards of Chinese conversation drifting up, fresh-made dim sum in a steamer and soothing jasmin tea – a delicious instant in the city’s Old Town.

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