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Exhibition celebrates the art of appraising Pu'er tea and teaware

Featuring some 120 exhibits of aged Pu'er tea "cakes" and tea pack insert labels, classic covered teabowls and tea-making utensils, the exhibition "Let's Drink to Our Pleasure - Pu'er Tea and Teaware" opens today (January 10) and runs until July 31 at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

It examines Hong Kong people's attachment to the tradition of "yum cha" (drinking tea while enjoying "dim sum" in Chinese restaurants) and their affection for Pu'er tea and covered teabowls.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition, the Deputy Director (Culture) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Ms Choi Suk-kuen, noted that "yum cha" is deeply rooted in Hong Kong. Teahouses were already numerous in Sai Ying Poon and Wellington Street in the mid-19th century.

"Methods of tea-tasting have undergone considerable changes since the Tang Dynasty (AD618 - 906), and the use of covered teabowls is one development of note.

"The simple yet practical design of covered teabowls makes them an excellent utensil for tea-tasting. The fine painting on these bowls also enhances their aesthetic value," said Ms Choi.

Pu'er tea is the most popular choice for local tea lovers. It originates in the Xishuangbanna of Yunnan province, China. Tea from the Six Tea Mountains - Yi Wu, Yi Bong, Yo Le, Ban San, Man Tsuen and Ge Dung - is deemed to be of exceptional quality and is known as "Zhang Zhan Pu'er" tea. The Pu'er available in today's market comes from Yunnan and Guangdong provinces, as well as Vietnam, Thailand and Burma.

Pu'er is said to have medicinal value. Not only does it quench thirst, it is also believed to lower cholesterol, thus making it complementary to the Cantonese diet. Both restaurants and households stock up on Pu'er tea leaves because they can be stored for a long time without deterioration.

The process of selecting teas and bringing them to market is a complex one for which a variety of aids has been developed: tea-picking baskets, rattan sieves and tea shovels for collecting tea leaves; special tea cups for quality assessment; a variety of moulds for forming tea "cakes"; woven bamboo baskets, nylon bags and shipping labels for delivery; paper bags, gift boxes and insert labels for packaging; and tea caddies for storage.

Tea "cakes" make for ease of transport and storage. Aged Pu'er tea "cakes" have become sought after items - they are true "drinkable antiques".

Another favourite collectible for tea lovers is covered teabowls, or "gai bei", which made their appearance during the Kangxi period (mid-17th century) of the Qing Dynasty. A complete set comprises a bowl, a lid and a saucer.

The design of covered teabowls is elegant yet functional. The bowl's flared rim makes it easy to pour water into, while the lid keeps the tea warm and clean and seals in the aroma. And the surface painting adds an artistic dimension to the pleasure of tea-tasting.

The exhibits, supplemented by explanatory texts, videos and images, were loaned to the museum by the following tea specialists: Mr Lewis S N Tung (Heritage Tea House), Mr Kings Yeung (Sun Sing Tea), Mr Chan Tai-yim (Luk Yu Tea House), Mr Wong Hon-kin (Tea Art research), and Mr Lam Kwan-yin (Lam Kie Yuen Tea Company Limited).

Located at 1 Man Lam Road in Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum is open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays) as well as the first two days of the Lunar New Year, and closes at 5pm on Lunar New Year's Eve.

Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

A free shuttle bus operates between the Sha Tin KCR Station and the Heritage Museum from 1pm to 6pm on Saturdays and from 1pm to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays.

For more details of the exhibition, please visit the Heritage Museum's website at . For enquiries, please call 2180 8188.

Ends/Saturday, January 10, 2004
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