This spring we visited the Nanfang Tea Market ( also called the Fang Cun Tea Market ) in the Fang Cun district of Guangzhou city, Guangdong Province, China. This is the largest wholesale tea market in the world – easily estimated at well over 1,000 tea vendors. The vast neighborhood surrounding this market is also chock-a-block with tea businesses so our colleagues gave an educated guess that the total number of tea sellers in this district is just over 3,000. The aroma in this area is overwhelmingly ‘tea’ accompanied by good food smells from food vendors and restaurants.
Guangzhou is the city that the English named Canton during the heyday of the China tea trade in the 1700’s.Today, Guangzhou remains an important tea trading center, but only documents, pictures, artifacts, and the history itself remain from those tumultuous tea trading days. I had hoped to find some of the old warehouse buildings still standing but all traces of them have vanished.
We stayed on Shamian Island which was in good proximity to the tea market. I was surprised to see quite a few American and English couples in this part of the city, and even though there was a large percentage of Westerners in evidence, the local folks seemed to check us out more intently than usual. It did not take us long to figure out that just down the street from the hotel was a Chinese adoption center and most couples were there to finalize their adoption. We, of course, were there for tea, so we strangely felt a bit out of place. Then I realized that the old ladies that we saw as we came and went about our business were looking at us to see if we had received our little bundle of joy. Hmmm…say, how about a nice bouncing baby……Pu-erh ?
The Nanfang Tea Market is a ‘city of tea’ and nearly every tea made in China can be found here. We had been lusting to visit this place since we learned of it on our first tea sourcing trip to China and this year, the opportunity came our way. We were not disappointed.
The ‘market’ is comprised of a dizzying maze of ‘streets’ filled with individually-owned tea and teawares shops. Many of these shops are owned by tea farmers and tea factories, so the competition for business is great. Fortunately, we were with colleagues who guided us during our visit. Otherwise, we might still be wandering around there – drinking tea.
Did we find some tea treasures to sell? Why, yes we did. Our discoveries from this market will be arriving in the next week and we will announce their arrival as soon as we can. We’ll give you a hint though – the teas are all dark and are very special. Guesses ?