We visited the bright beautiful red-colored FREESKY PEARLS after we left the Summer Palace, Beijing.
We were greeted by friendly smiling Sales ladies at the doorsteps of FREESKY PEARLS & each given the below Quality Guarantee Cards :
Stepping into FREESKY PEARLS now.
There was a pair of black Qilins (1 of the 9 Sons of the Dragon King) right inside the Entrance of the FREESKY PEARLS.
Also at the Entrance was a beautifully painted Portrait of a Chinese Court Lady wearing an Elegant headdress full of Pearls.
Once inside FREESKY PEARLS, we saw more Portraits of the Imperial Royals of the past Dynasties.
Below is the Portrait of Empress Dowager Cixi (1835 – 1908).
Our tour guide Wang Jing pointing to the Portrait of Emperor Qianlong (1711 – 1799), also called Emperor Gaozong.
We then saw Pictures of Pearls (from Farming to Cultivation) on the walls below :
We were led to a Demonstration room & we stood around to hear our Pearls Introduction by the Sales lady, who was holding a big Pearl Mussel as she explained.
The Farming to Harvest Process of Pearls :
Live Pearl Oysters or Pearl Mussels are first open & surgically implanted with a small polished shell bead & a piece of mantle tissue inserted. The shell bead serves as the nucleus around which the Oyster secretes layer after layer of nacre, the crystalline sybstance that forms the Pearl. For Pearl Mussels, only the piece of nantle tissue is inserted.
The nucleated Oysters or Mussels are returned to the sea (Saltwater for the Oysters & Freshwater for the Mussels). There, in sheltered bays rich in natural nutrients, the Oysters & Mussels feed & grow, depositing lustrous layers of nacre. .
The nucleated Oysters or Mussels are then suspended from the Pearl Rafts to provide the best growing conditions by the daily checking of water temperatures & feeding conditions at various water depths & moving the Oysters or Mussels up & down (to take advantage of the best growing conditions).
Periodically, the pearl-bearing Oysters or Mussels are lifted from the sea (Saltwater or Freshwater respectively) for cleaning & health treatments. Seaweed, barnacles & other undersea growths that might impede the feeding of the Oysters or Mussels are removed from their shells. The shells are also treated with medicinal compounds to discourage parasites from injuring the Oysters or Mussels.
It take at least 2 to 3 years for the nacre (lustrous materials of Pearls) to form around the shell bead, or just the nacre for the case of Pearl Mussels. The longer it cultivates, the thicker the nacre & the deeper the luster, the higher the quality of the Pearl. For the Pearls from the Pearl Mussels, they’re entirely made up of nacre.
Cutting a Pearl open will reveal its true nature. Natural Pearls are comprised of many layers of nacre. Cultured Pearls are covered with a thin layer of nacre whereas Fake Pearls have 1 or more layers of coating applied to them, which tends to flake away from the shell bead upon cutting.
Pearls from the Freshwater Pearl Mussels are usually cheaper than Pearls from the Saltwater Pearl Oysters. Usually 20 or more Pearls will be culitivated in the Freshwater Pearls, but only 1 Pearl is grown per Saltwater Pearl Oyster.
The Sales lady cutting open the Pearl Mussel now.
The below photo shows the opened Pearl Mussel - there were more than 20 Pearls inside!!
With her left thumb, the Sales lady pushed the Pearls out of the huge Mussel.
Look at the below Freshwater Pearls of irregular Rice Pearls (oblong in shape) & Round & Near-round Pearls :
It’s so amazing how Cultured Pearls are produced, which literally saved the Pearl Trade from extinction.
If it weren’t for Cultured Pearls, only Kings & Queens & the fabulously Wealthy would be able to have the opportunity to enjoy these gems. But today, be they fairly expensive or cheaper, we can all get to marvel at the inner glow & magical beauty of Pearls.
The huge tank of live Pearl Mussels besides the Demonstration counter :
After the Pearls Introduction & Demonstration by the Sales lady, we were brought into the 2-storey FREESKY PEARLS showroom, & the below photo shows a lovely Chinese Pagoda made of Pearls & a gigantic Seashell decorated with shinning Pearls at its entrance.
Dear standing inside the FREESKY PEARLS showroom :
As Pearls can also be crushed & used in Cosmetics & Medicines, we were given a small demonstration of how good the Pearl Mositurizer is. My hand, as well as that of my tourmate (the Thai wife of the Singaporean man), were each applied the white cream (from the below golden boxes that came in forms of tiny tubes), to see & feel the “before” & “after” results. Well, my hand did look & fell slightly smoothier & shinier, but I did not buy the cream cos I knew I’d be too lazy to use it at all!!
We were also recommended the below boxes of Pearl Powder, but as I don usually put make-up or apply face powder etc (except for only lipstick), I did not buy any too.
We later walked around the Pearls showroom for a while admiring the many showcases of Pearls. The Sales ladies also showed me a few colored chained Pearls below :
We soon left FREESKY PEARLS & at its outside we saw some Sales ladies having their lunches & taking a break & chit-chatting (behind the bicycles) under the shady trees.
Dear outside FREESKY PEARLS beside our Chinese driver Sifu’s Van.
We left FREESKY PEARLS in Shifu’s Van – enjoying views of nice buildings along our way.
We arrived at the below “Lao Bin Jiu Jia” (meaning “Old Soldier Restaurant”) for our lunch.
Dear seated inside the Restaurant.
On our table were set for each & everyone of us a compact 3-in-1 pack of a pair of chopsticks, a piece of Wet Serviette & 2 tooth picks - pretty efficient & unique ha!!
The waitresses & waiters in the Restaurant were all dressed in Soldiers’ uniforms & they brought in our 1st dish - stewed Baby Brinjals (or Egg Plants) with sliced Bitter Gourds & Wood Ears (or Black Fungus). WIth the slightly Spiciness with a little sweetness taste, & the Brinjals so soft & tender, the whole dish was very delicious! We’ve never eaten Brinjals cooked this well & it was really good!
Our next dish was Hotpot Mushrooms Soup :
There were all kinds of Mushrooms in the simple milky colored plain tasty Hotpot Soup; Straw Mushrooms, Forest Nameko (or Cinnamon Cap) Mushrooms, big white Mushrooms etc.
I love mushrooms alot & to me the soup was the best dish!
Next came our plate of stir-fry fresh crunchy Broccoli – one of my favourite vegies!
Rice served in traditional Wooden Bowls to go with our dishes :
Below is Claypot Sliced Pork in Tomato Sauce with Sliced Onions.
This Claypot dish was steaming hot & very tasty as the Pork was very tender!
We were later served a huge bowl of Egg Soup with tiny cubed Tofu, thinly sliced Carrots, black Mushrooms & Greeny leaves with Egg White.
Our last dish for the day was the following slightly curry flavoured Chicken with Potatoes, Onions, Chinese Parsley & Spring Onions.
Dear picking up Onions – I like his correct way of holding chopsticks. Haha I’m ashamed to say that till now I’ve not managed to learn how to hold mine correctly!
“Hey Is it that what I used to eat when I was travelling in Xinjiang, Silk Roads, China?” I asked myself when I saw the Soldier Uniformed Waitress brought in an extra plate of thick flour Noodles! YES I was so excited when I realised that it was the same kind which I ate in Xinjiang cos then this dish was my most favourite & memorable one cos it reminded me so much of home…..curry……spicies……….though this dish was not spicy at all it was to me a very special unique dish among China dishes!
The thick flour noodles were hand pulled like our local “Ban Mien” noodles, except that it’s much thicker & much longer!
We had tea throughout our lunch. According to our tour guide Wang Jing, who was lunching with us together with Sifu (Chinese Driver), tea should only be drunk after meals if we wana slim down, cos drinking tea before meals will make one eat more & gain weight! Oh I never knew that!! Also as I recalled my times spent on the Silk Road, I remembered my tour guide then used to say “Never drink tea with fruits after meals, cos that will make you have diarrhea!”! So, do remember & take note the next time you’re travelling in China!!
We had a pretty good lunch, though we didn’t finish all the food. Below photos show the private room (with TV set too) at the 2nd-storey of the Restaurant where we just ate.
Dear outside “Lao Bin Jiu Jia” (“Old Soldiers Restaurant”) ready to go now.
We arrived at the below Dr Tea house (or ”Cha BoShi Jai” in Chinese).
China is the Homeland of Tea as it’s universally acknowledged that China is the original tea-growing area & the 1st country to grow, produce & drink tea. According to historical data, China began to grow tea about 2000 years ago during the period of the Warring States (475 – 221BC). For the Chinese, tea is the most popular beverage & it’s considered 1 of the 7 necessities of Chinese life, along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, sugar & vinegar.
Camellia sinensis (“Chahua” meaning Tea Plant in Chinese) is the Tea Plant & the ancient Chinese used it for medical purposes. They then developed the infusion we know as Tea, & to this day, Tea is said to purge the digestive system of “toxins”. Later, the Chinese learned to grow other Tea plants & use their leaves to make various types of Tea.
My Dad has always told us since we were very young that Chinese Tea is very good stuff which can clear our body system & that by drinking Chinese Tea often will make us healthy!
Dear was very fascinated by the huge Teapot on display at the main entrance.
Dear & myself with the beautiful Teapot, with a Tiger-looking wooden log on the floor beside it.
A Dr Tea hostess brought us into one of the many private rooms & sat us down, facing a Counter top full of Tea accessories (as shown below), while waiting for our Tea Introduction.
Hehe, the below chairs looked very familiar – it was the same old kind that Dear & I used to sit on during our childhood days! I actually missed them so much & I quickly sat on one of them!
Our Hostess (pretty young 19-year-old from Yunnan dressed in Pink traditional costume) first showed us the “Pee Pee Boy”, demonstrating to us how he works. The “Pee Pee Boy” is a small clay statue which has a little tiny hole on his private part. And when we pour hot water on his head, he’ll pee & this’s meant to help us determine if the water is of the right temperature for making tea.
The “Pee Pee Boy” soaked in water before & after use, hehe he’s so Cute right?!
We were then each given the English version pamplets with short descriptions of the types of tea, & the instructions of tea making & how to use the ”Pee Pee Boy” for references.
The Chinese version pamplets :
Our Hostess started making different types of tea for us to sample, as well as showing us their different tea leaves & letting us touch, feel & smell the fragrant leaves.
Our first try was the Golden Green Tea, which is also the Slimming Tea or Wild Puer Tea. It’s used to regulate blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lose weight, purify the body by eliminating toxins & eliminating worries. Besides, it’s good for insomnia when added with honey.
The round container of Golden Green Tea leaves below :
Look at the way I was holding the tea cup below – that’s the proper way of holding a tea cup as taught by our Hostess.
The below cup of tea is White Tea, which can relieve colds, coughs, sore throats & constipation. And It can also dispel the effects of alcohol & nicotine. My initial sip of the White Tea tasted slightly bitter, but it soon changed into sweetness - how amazing!
We were next introduced to Oriental Green Tea, the King of Oolong Tea, which is good for the skin & blood circulation. It can also soften our blood vessels & help anemia, enrich our blood & get rid of indigestive pains. And adding some brown sugar to the Tea will help nourish our stomachs!
The box of aromatic tea leaves (named “Donggfang Meiren” in Chinese meaning Eastern Oriental Beauty) as shown to us below :
Our Hostess also showed us the following unique tea cups with dragon designs on them. The original color of the dragons on the cups was black but it would change to the color Red when hot tea is poured into them. See the below 2 cups – the bottom cup with Black dragon was before the Hot tea was poured inside, & the top one with Red dragon was after the Tea has been poured inside.
Below shows me holding the cup of tea with its changed colored in red dragon - pretty special cup ha!
Pointing to the few pictures hung on the wall, our Hostess explained about the growing of Tea.
The highest grade White Tea, Yellow Tea & Green Tea are made from tender tea shoots picked in early Spring. These young tea shoots may consist of a single terminal bud, a bud with an adjacent leaf or a bud with 2 adjacent slightly unfurled leaves. It’s generally required that the leaves are equal in length or shorter than the buds.
The more oxidised Tea such as Red Tea or Oolong Tea are made from more matured leaves.
The above picture of such a HUGE tea tree with its THICK FAT tree trunck!! This’s a very old mature tree which will produce matured good quality tea leaves!
Poster of a Tea Plantation :
The following cup of tea is Litchi Tea (or Black Tea), which is good for digestion & it’s said that when brewed with rose flowers, it’ll get rid of freckles too! It has a sweet smooth taste with a slighlt baked & floral aroma – very nice!
See the following huge round bamboo-shoot-husks-wrapped pack (referred to as a “Tong” in Chinese) - that’s Puer Tea leaves in there, in 7 Round Cakes form (“Bingcha” in Chinese meaning Cake Tea), stacked together.
The below poster hung on the wall shows the Yunnan Horse Caravan Puer Tea (“Ma Pa Pu Er” in Chinese) hitting the record bid of $1.6million Yuans at an Auction held in Beijing. The Horse Caravan Puer Tea leaves were packed in the same way as the above 7-Bingcha-in-a-Tong that has travelled along the Old Tea Horse Road (or Ancient Tea Route) carried by Horse caravans.
Below shows a map of the Old Tea Horse Road (Ancient Tea Route) which traversed a series of towering Mountains, & Rivers flowing in between from the South to the North. See the location ”Pu-erh” on the map – that’s the Home of Puer Tea where it was first founded.
A box of Puer Tea leaves in the form of an individual Round Cake (“Bingcha” in Chinese) was then passed around for us to have a feel & smell of the tea leaves.
Dad & Mom have always bought tea leaves from China but they came in containers or boxes but never in such cake forms! It’s our first time seeing tea leaves packed this Unique way!!
Well, there’re reasons behind this way of packing; one being that the tea leaves compressed together this way will help them age slower & last longer!
Below is another valuable very expensive box of Puer Tea leaves. It’s very expensive cos the Tea leaves are matured leaves plucked from a 10-long-year-old tree! Unlike the above Round Cake form of much cheaper Puer Tea leaves which were plucked from a young 2-year old tree.
Dear holding the very expensive 10-year-old Puer Tea leaves in the form of a rectangular block (“Zhuangcha” in Chinese).
Zhuancha bricks are the traditional shape used for ease of transport along the Ancient tea route by Horse caravans.
Our tour guide Wang Jing comparing the Cake & Block of Puer Tea leaves.
Our last tea sample was the Tian Qi Flower Tea which has got a slight Ginseng taste in it. Tian Qi Flower Tea helps to restore our energy, reduce inflammation, stop gum bleeding, dispel the effects of alcohol, reduce heaty liver & protect livers. And mixing these flowers with soup can help improve the skeleton condition, & protect our liver & kidney.
Below shows me holding the round container of many pretty greeny aromatic Tian Qi Flowers :
I bought a box of the same 2-year-old Puer Tea leaves which come in the form of a Round Cake, packed inside a beautiful red box, for Mom & Dad.
Below photos show the Puer Tea Round Cake (“Puer Bingcha”) wrapped in cotton paper sitting in the box. It’s also called the Yunnan “Qizi Bing” (七子餅 meaning “Seven Units of Cake”) due to the fact that 7 Bingcha are packed together at a time for sales or transport, as seen in my ealrier photo of the 7-Bingcha-stacked together in a Tong pack, & wrapped with bamboo shoot husks. Such a compressed Bingcha can last up to a few years if kept dry & not turned mouldy.
And I received the following not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 free gifts from our Hostess! She’d told me that usually she gave only 1 complimentary gift with a purchase, but out of goodwill & guess she must have liked me alot, she gave me 3 more instead!
Actually what happened was my tourmate the Singapore Uncle had wanted to buy the same kind of Puer Tea Round Cake (Puer “Bingcha”) as me. And with these 2 combined purchases of ours, we could get a complimentary Tea Set & a small container of Tian Qi Flowers. So Uncle said he would take the Flowers & that I could have the Tea Set. But his Thai wife also wanted the same Tea Set as mine so I helped to negotiate with our Hostess………..haha making her full of headaches as she kept telling us!! Anyway, in the end she gave in to us & gave us an extra Tea Set & an extra container of Tian Qi Flowers, which I didn’t mind at all cos they were so cute & pretty, & healthy too! So now we’ve each got the same things – a Tea Set, as well as a container of Tian Qi Flowers.
About my 3rd & 4th complimentary gifts I’ll tell you soon!
This is a small container of Tian Qi Flowers which I gave to Mom when back home as she cooks delicious yummy Soups all the time & she can always add some of these pretty healthy flowers into her Soups for a Ginseng flavoured aromatic taste!
The complimentary special unique Dragon Tea Set. As I’ve mentioned & shown to you with photos earlier, the black colored dragons on these Teacups & pots will change their color into Red when Hot tea is poured into them
Now, below is my 3rd complimentary gift from our Hostess; the “Pee Pee Boy”. Usually, the “Pee Pee Boys” were never given to customers but cos I liked it very much I told our Hostess about it & she immediately went to look for one to give it to me. And she came back with the below “Boy”.
Then I noticed that this was a different ”Boy” cos he was not wearing any hat like the one from the Counter which our Hostess demonstrated with earlier on. And she told me cos that “Boy” with hat on the Counter was the last piece. I then took the “Boy” with hat & compared him with my “Boy” with no hat & realised that both of them looked so cute & adorable!! And how could I part with any adorable baby!!! So I just asked our Hostess if I could also have that last piece of “Boy” with hat & she readily agreed to give me!
She was the sweetest Yunnan girl I’ve met & now I’ve got 2 “Pee Pee” Boys. Aren’t they so cute ha?!!
Before we left, our Hostess showed us her metal filter which she used to sieve out tea leaves from the tea. And now let me share with you on how to make a pot of good tea!
How to prepare my Puer Bingcha (Puer Cake Tea) which I’ve just bought :
First separate a well-sized portion of the compressed Tea Cake (making sure to minimise the leaf breakage) for brewing.
Boil water & rinse the Teapot with Hot water. Preferably use a Teapot made of Glass or Zisha clay to best enhance the flavour, aroma & texture of the tea.
Fill the Teapot with the tea leaves. Rinse the tea leaves by filling the pot with Hot water & draining the water immediately leaving only the tea leaves behind – here is when a siever is needed (eg. the above metal siever of our Hostess).
Pour more Hot water into the Teapot & you may also want to pour Hot water over the whole Teapot too (best put inside a large bowl if doing this pouring).
With the hot Teapot of tea, pour a little tea over each & every Teacups (continuously moving the Teapot around over the Teacups) & then pour away the tea from the Teacups). My dad especially always does this step cos he says we’ll then better taste the flavour & aroma of the tea when we’re drinking tea later from inside these Teacups!)
There you go, our Teapot of Puer Cha is now ready for serving – that simple!! And I’m sure you’ll soon taste & feel the beauty of the Tea & be filled with peace & relaxation! Enjoy!!
P/S : You can use the above steps to make any kind of Tea. Also, do NOT throw away the tea leaves from the Teapot after the 1st round of serving cos the same Teapot of tea leaves can be used for at least another 3 to 5 more times, which means a Teapot of tea can last you for 1 whole day! And remember, try drink tea only after meals & not before, unless you don mind eating more & become fatter )
We thanked our Hostess for her precise demonstrations, detailed explanations & friendly good service & bid her goodbye before going out to the Teahouse gallery at the main entrance of Dr Tea house.
We saw paper bags full of Puer Bingcha (Cakes of Tea) on sales at the Teahouse gallery as though they were unwanted & useless…….& wondered if we’d bought ours more costly?!! Hahaha……after some touching & smelling of the tea leaves, we decided that ours’ were not fake but of geninue better quality. Besides, we also had so many free gifts, so we were really satisfied!
Dear standing inside the Tea gallery, carrying our bag of Tea purchases & Free gifts :
Some of the Tea items on sales :
Dear outside Dr Tea house ready to set off to our next destination. Thank you Dr Tea (“Cha BoShi Jai”) for such a very memorable & good-exposure experience & letting us learn so much about Tea!