After exploring Tiananmen Square and the National Museum of China, we took a leisurely walk home in the dusk through the hutong close to our AirBnB. A hutong, I learned, is a narrow street–more like an alley–that is commonly found in Beijing. Often there are many of them clustered together, forming a neighborhood. The most striking aspect for me was how QUIET it was–no cars, just pedestrians and silent scooters. Within the hutong, it was impossible to tell that we were within an enormous city–we could just have easily have been in a vibrant section of a small town (albeit one with terrible smog!)

We had been looking for a cozy tea shop in which to relax and reflect on our adventures, and were getting close enough to home that I didn’t think we’d find one. And then Jasper spotted the perfect place–a lovely little tea shop, complete with birdcages and a glorious fluffy orange cat reclining in the window nook. Perfect.

With the expression “Not for all the tea in China,” running through my head, reminding me of very precious tea was to the British, we settled in and selected a pot of rose and fruit tea as well as two desserts to share. The tea came in a beautiful pot with elegant clear glass cups, and it was delicate and delicious. We reflected on how taking the time to drink tea slowly and appreciatively reminded us of the mindfulness practices we’d encountered in Thailand and in Bali. After we drank the tea, we opened the top of the pot and ate the fruit and flowers from which it had been steeped. I don’t know if the other people in the tea shop considered this act to be a sign of great enjoyment of the tea, an attentiveness to a lack of waste, a barbaric lack of manners, or some combination thereof–but we savored every bite.