Tea Time for Ice-Cream Lovers (Beijing, Part I)

It’s been way too long, my friends. I apologize for the long absence; work and wedding planning have gotten the best of me. But while blog writing took a back seat, ice-cream eating did not. And I have several new reviews to share with y’all!

Over Labor Day weekend, K and I flew to China for a mini-vacation. A major reason for our trip was that K needed to practice his Mandarin, which he feared was getting rusty. In his previous job, K would travel to China multiple times a year, making it easy to keep up on his language skills. But his new job doesn’t require much travel to Asia, so he now has to create reasons to go to China.

We started our trip in Shanghai, a beautiful city in eastern China. Shanghai is one of the busiest port cities in the world, so it has a very global feel. The city is very cosmopolitan yet seems cleaner than Beijing. The big drawback of Shanghai? It’s very difficult to find ice-cream shoppes in the city! Sure, McDonald’s and other fast-food chains serve ice cream. But I had my eyes peeled for some mom-and-pop places but didn’t find any. On our last evening in Shanghai, K searched for ice cream on his phone. We hopped into a cab and gave the driver the address of a gelato store, but we arrived just minutes after they closed for the night. I was disappointed, but I knew that we’d have better luck in Beijing.

The last time K and I were in Beijing, we hung out with my childhood friend who was living and working in the city. While my friend has since moved back to the States, she did have some ice-cream recommendations for me. The one that sounded most intriguing was the Wu Yu Tai Tea Shop, which she said was a popular “local” teashop that happened to serve tea-flavored ice cream.

With the teashop’s address in-hand, K and I took the subway to the Beixinqiao stop in northeastern Beijing. The traffic is so bad in this city that taking the subway usually saves you a lot of time! It was oppressively hot outside, but I soldiered on. There was good ice cream to be had!

The first Wu Yu Tai teashop was established in Beijing in 1887, connecting city dwellers with a

variety of teas from the countryside. And 120 years later, Wu Yu Tai now has many different locations in and around Beijing. We had a pretty easy time finding our location. After all, it’s not every day that you see a giant green ice cream cone on the sidewalk!

The Wu Yu Tai teashop was a quiet oasis in a bustling part of Beijing, filled with beautiful displays of tea leaves, teapots, and teacups. One of the two female employees rushed to our side as soon as we walked through the door. K explained in Mandarin that we were here for ice cream. She said they had two different flavors: Green Tea (or “Macha”) and Jasmine. Without even consulting me, K ordered one cone of each flavor. The woman disappeared into a small alcove and resurfaced moments later, carrying two cones. The serving size was incredibly small… probably less ice cream than in an American kiddie cone. But our small cones came with an equally-small price: the bill for two cones was ¥8, which is equivalent to less than $2.

Left: Green Tea / Right: Jasmine
(Not my best photography; it was hot and I was rushing to eat!)

The verdict? I have no idea how Wu Yu Tai does it, but their ice cream tastes exactly like a strong cup of tea with milk. These ice-cream favors weren’t sweet, but they had deep floral notes and that distinct nearly-bitter tea aftertaste. While the Green Tea ice cream had the best visual appeal, it was the beige-colored Jasmine that had K and me asking for more… literally! Neither of us were fully satisfied with the small servings, so K doled out a few more RMBs for another Jasmine cone to share. After all, ice cream offers the sweetest relief in Beijing’s oppressive summer heat. I definitely recommend that any visitor in Beijing try to find a Wu Yu Tai location for this one-of-a-kind ice-cream experience.

The Stats:
Wu Yu Tai Tea Shop
43 Yonghegong Dajie (Multiple other locations)
Beijing, China
http://en.wuyutai.com/default.php