Pengzhen Tea House
It’s difficult to tell if it’s steam from their drinks or smoke from their cigars that’s lingering in the air.
Walking into Pengzhen Tea House for the first time is something you will always remember. As smoke clears from hand-rolled cigars and steaming iron tea pots, you get your first glimpse at a place that most likely hasn’t changed for over 100 years. Forget about just slowing down, this place feels like it’s a time capsule, a moment of Chinese history, preserved inside what can only be described as a wooden barn, with its walls covered in old communist memorabilia and portraits of Mao. When you step inside, it feels as if you are stepping into a China before its economic boom, before its commercialization and capitalization; a simpler time, where communities were smaller and people were closer.
It feels as if you are stepping into a China before its economic boom, before its commercialization and capitalization; a simpler time, where communities were smaller and people were closer.
A group of old men sit around a bamboo table, wearing thick winter jackets and flat caps, as they drink their first cups of tea before the sun rises. It’s difficult to tell if it’s steam from their drinks or smoke from their cigars that’s lingering in the air. Most likely a combination of the two, which is causing the most beautiful swirling patterns as light rays begin to burst through the opening in the ceiling.
As the sun slowly rises, more and more old people fill the tea house. There are people playing cards, talking, relaxing. There is even a group of men waiting to get their hair cut at an outdoor Barbers just outside of the shop. The tea house is full of fascinating people: there is a man sitting in the corner, with a long white beard, dressed in traditional Chinese clothing, selling hand made bone and root pipes. He is a travelling salesman who moves between small towns in Western China trying to sell his products. He says he always finds himself coming back to Pengzhen because there is no where else that feels more like home.
The owner of the tea house is easy to spot. He’s the man who is about 30 years younger than everyone else, usually wearing a pair of red Beats headphones and carrying an iron tea pot. He tries to arrive by around 6am everyday but said some of the more familiar customers will let themselves in as early as 4:30 to sit together and relax. Something he said resonated with us, “if I wasn’t open every day, I don’t know where a lot of these old guys would go. Most of them don’t really have any family to look after them, they come here for the company, and as long as they keep coming, I’ll keep opening.”
Pengzhen Tea House really is unique and has the feeling of walking into a living museum. It is very welcoming to photographers and visitors, just be sure to buy a cup of tea and support their business if you do decide to go. As the dawn transitions to morning you may become increasingly aware of the growing number of photographers in the tea house. Sometimes photography workshops with up to 15 participants will be held there. We definitely recommend getting there bright and early to have a more comfortable experience.
Pengzhen Tea House.
Recommended time to visit:
We strongly advise arriving at the tea house between 6am – 7:30am.
Because of the early start, Didi or Taxi is the best option to travel to the tea house. Travelling home, you can take a 10-minute Didi or Taxi to the closest metro station, YingChunQiao on line 3.