Two years ago my Mum and I travelled to China. While there, we took a weekend trip to Wuxi to visit family friends, and to discover more about the high-quality tea grown in the country and tea drinking traditions.

Wuxi is an old city in southern Jiangsu Province, a two-hour bullet train ride north of Shanghai. The city is built around Taihu Lake, the third-largest freshwater lake in China, and the Yangtze River. It is home to some beautiful gardens and parks full of history and tradition. On the outskirts of Wuxi, nestled near the Lingshan Mountains stands a 287-foot-high bronze statue of Sakyamuni – the largest likeness of Buddha in China.

The Wuxi region produces freshwater pearls, silk weaving and the delicious tender Wuxi Honey Peaches. These peaches were a treasured gift to be shared with family and friends. We packed them in the car and drove our precious cargo back to Shanghai, delivering the peaches to friends at 11pm that night…a long but rewarding day!

The nearby town of Yixing produces amazing stoneware and ceramic products. We were intrigued to learn that the clay is not dug from the earth but is actually made from ground rocks found in the area. The range of colours and tones comes from varying coloured clay, not paint or glazes. These fired clay teapots are uniquely able to bring out the flavours of the leaves during brewing as well as enhancing the aroma and flavour of the tea. Since the clay is absorbent unlike glass, porcelain or metal, some of the flavour and essence is absorbed into the pot during each brewing. This gives the tea a richer more mellow flavour and after numerous brews the pot can flavour boiling water without even adding any tealeaves. Yixing teapots are used to brew Black, Oolong and aged Pu’erh teas. If Green and White teas are brewed the water must be cooled slightly.

Business meetings, catching up with friends or enjoying a meal, tea was always served. As tea lovers, the 30ml of beautiful tea in a tiny cup lasted about five seconds and was constantly refilled. We asked why they didn’t serve it in a bigger cup and were told that Chinese people traditionally drink from small cups so that the tea cools rapidly but can be drunk before it gets cold.

In both ancient and modern times, drinking tea has formed an important part of daily life. People that we talked to in China said that they drink tea for its many health benefits as well as for a graceful social activity.