Tea Time – Chinadaily.com.cn

A woman of the De’ang ethnic group and her son from Yunnan province prepare traditional suancha, a fermented sweet and sour tea.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Li Qiang, caretaker of a 120-year-old teahouse in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, considers his workplace to be home. For the deceased regulars, he always reserves a place, with a lit cigarette and a cup of tea on the table, marking his “way of saying goodbye”.

A bustling place filled with smoky teapots and chatty customers, Li’s tearoom is a place of heartwarming stories. With various tea set locations, people can ignore the language to convey their meanings. For example, when the lid is tilted over the saucer, there is a request to fill with water. If the lid is held vertically next to the teacup, it’s a shy understatement to mean the customer forgot to bring their wallet and will pay next time.

Chinese streaming platform Migu Video now broadcasts the BBC documentary, One cup, a thousand stories, which features Li’s tearoom. The six-part documentary was filmed for three years in 13 countries on six continents, giving audiences the opportunity to examine the influence of tea on daily life in different locations, as well as revealing plantings and picking techniques.

“Tea is China’s great gift to mankind. We wanted to examine how tea and tea culture developed in China and spread across the world, transforming culture wherever it took root, ”said Matthew Springford, executive producer of the documentary.

One episode follows the return of a 75-year-old entrepreneur to seek his roots in the Tibet Autonomous Region from the United States, revisiting sites along the Tea Horse Road, an ancient network of trailer trails winding through the mountainous areas of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces and Tibet. With the history of Chinese tea plantations stretching back thousands of years, some ancient myths and legends are also told. These are rarely heard by young Chinese today.

As the first story of the documentary, a local expert on the De’ang ethnic group, most of whose members live in Yunnan, tells a myth. He says 102 tea leaves magically transformed into 51 capable men and 51 beautiful women, and then a couple stayed on earth to create humanity after the other 50 couples soared to the sky. The locals still carry on the centuries-old technique of making suancha, a fermented sour tea, as an offering to their ancestors.