Beijing Tea Culture and Teahouses

During the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 C.E.), the teahouse industry flourished, propelled by the leisurely pursuits of the Manchu nobles. With ample time on their hands, these nobles would engage in pastimes like tending to pet birds and engaging in leisurely conversations at teahouses. The trend of visiting teahouses quickly spread to the commoners of Beijing, resulting in a vibrant teahouse culture. In its golden era, teahouses became an integral part of Beijing’s neighborhoods, and it was rare to come across a locality devoid of these establishments. These teahouses could be categorized into six distinct types based on their size and functions.

Types of Teahouse

Grand Teahouse

The grand teahouses held a prestigious status, often occupying prime locations and boasting a spacious public area complemented by numerous private rooms catering to guests of various social statuses. Within these grand establishments, patrons could indulge in exquisitely crafted desserts, snacks, and a wide selection of tea leaves. Teaware was given great attention as well. While commoners in the public area were served tea in humble vessels, VIP guests were treated to meticulously chosen exquisite teaware. Notable examples of grand teahouses included the Long Hai Xuan in Xuanwumen, which renowned author Lu Xun once described as a gathering place for intellectuals in old Beijing, and the Tian Hui Xuan in Dianmenwai, favored by government officials and Manchu nobles for both official and personal matters. Unfortunately, the Tian Hui Xuan met its demise during the Peking Mutiny in 1912.

Pure Teahouse

Pure teahouses, unlike their grand counterparts, catered primarily to the commoners and owed their prosperity to their support. Among the various types of small teahouses, the Pure Teahouses distinguished themselves by offering affordable tea. These teahouses found particular favor among bird keepers, with some even organizing annual bird competitions to attract a larger clientele. Pure Teahouses served as a melting pot for people from all walks of life. Whether they were unemployed individuals anxiously seeking work, matchmakers, businessmen, moneylenders, or even adversaries looking for a place to engage in a negotiation or confrontation, everyone found solace within the welcoming atmosphere of these teahouses. One of the most renowned Pure Teahouses was Yao Tai in Taoranting. Situated along the route between the homes of Peking Opera singers in south Beijing and the Temple of Agriculture, where they rehearsed, Yao Tai gradually gained fame as a prominent Peking Opera hub in the city.

Story Teahouse

Story teahouses, as their name implies, were venues in Beijing where locals gathered to enjoy tea while being captivated by storytelling performances by pingshu artists. In addition to pingshu stories, these teahouses also showcased traditional folk art performances such as Drum Songs, adding to the cultural richness of the experience. It was customary for the pingshu artists to narrate a story over the course of one to two months, which meant that patrons had to visit the same teahouse at the same time every day to follow the unfolding tale. The Donghuamen and Dianmen areas were renowned for housing numerous famous story teahouses, attracting enthusiasts of storytelling and traditional performances.

Chess Teahouse

Chess teahouses catered to guests with a passion for playing chess. Rather than the tea itself, the primary factor influencing the choice of teahouse was the prospect of finding a worthy opponent across the chessboard. Most chess teahouses were concentrated in the Tianqiao area, but there was one hidden gem on Tobacco Slant Street in the Gulou area, affectionately referred to as Er Ji Zi Chess Teahouse. This establishment attracted renowned go masters like Wang Yunfeng and Cui Yunzhi from the Republican era, as well as Chinese chess masters such as Zhang Dekui and Xie Xiaoran, who made it their habitual gathering place.

Tea Hut

Tea huts found within Buddhist and Taoist temples served different purposes based on the unique nature of each religious tradition. The tea huts in Buddhist temples provided a tranquil refuge for individuals seeking solitude and a temporary escape from worldly matters. On the other hand, the tea huts in Taoist temples catered to those who sought to maintain good health. These tea huts specialized in serving herbal teas with distinct nourishing properties, each crafted to fulfill specific health-enhancing functions.

Countryside Tea Hut

Countryside tea huts had a more relaxed approach when it came to the quality of tea and the overall ambiance of the establishment, if it could even be called an “establishment.” These tea huts were often set up in rustic locations outside of the city walls or in the wilderness, serving as a resting place for weary travelers in need of refreshment. The tea served in these huts was made from coarse tea leaves and served in large earthen bowls.

Although the teahouse culture in old Beijing has declined, you can still catch a glimpse of its past glory by visiting the Laoshe Teahouse in Qianmen. Established in 1988 and inspired by Lao She’s play, “Teahouse,” this teahouse provides an opportunity to experience a taste of the bygone era of Beijing’s teahouse culture.

Popular Teahouse in Beijing

Laoshe Teahouse (老舍茶馆)

Laoshe Teahouse, known as 老舍茶馆 in Chinese, opened its doors in 1988 and was named after the renowned writer, Laoshe, and his famous drama, “Teahouse.” This teahouse has garnered widespread acclaim, both domestically and internationally. Its elegant yet unpretentious decor transports visitors back to the vibrant atmosphere of 1930s old Beijing. Every day, the teahouse offers a variety of folk performances, including acrobatics, opera, and a captivating tea ceremony show. Authentic local desserts are also available for guests to enjoy. It has become a must-visit destination for visitors to the city. Please note that the minimum cost is CNY 20 for tea.

Sihe Teahouse, located on the 2nd floor, provides a serene courtyard where people can savor Chinese tea and dishes in a peaceful environment.

Address: Building 3, Zhengyang Market, Qianmen Xi Dajie, Xicheng District Bus Route: Take bus 44 or 48 and alight at Qianmen Stop


  • The comprehensive performances at Laoshe Teahouse include Folk Music Play, Beijing Opera, Danxian (storytelling with musical accompaniment), Hand Shadow Play, Folk Dance, Face Changing, Acrobatics, Magic Tricks, Allegretto, Comic Dialogue Show, and Chinese Martial Arts.
  • The ticket fee mentioned above includes different sets of tea and pastries based on the price range. Customers can also order additional tea and local refreshments from the waitstaff.
  • Due to its popularity and high customer demand, it is recommended to make a reservation in advance (preferably before 18:00 on the day of your visit). For evening performances, please arrive before 19:35, as reservations will be canceled otherwise (In case of emergencies, you can call the following number to confirm: Tickets Booking Hotline: 010-63036830 / 63021717).
  • Opening Hours: 09:00 – 01:00 Capacity: The teahouse can accommodate up to 800 people.

De Yun She Teahouse (德云社)

De Yun She, also known as Tianqiaole Teahouse, has a Chinese name 德云社 (天桥乐茶园). Located in the Tianqiao area of Xuanwu District, this teahouse has been a gathering place for the common people’s daily entertainment in old Beijing. Originally built in 1933, it has been a local favorite for a long time. In 1992, it underwent repairs and renovations. The teahouse offers daily performances of opera, acrobatics, martial arts, and various folk arts. Renowned comic dialogue actor Guo Degang and his colleagues also put on entertaining shows. One unique aspect of this teahouse is that customers are required to pay using ancient copper cash (though you can exchange paper cash for it at the teahouse), allowing you to truly experience the atmosphere of ancient times. Another well-received folk performance in this venue is the Drum Song of Beijing.

Comic Dialogue Show schedule:

  • Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday: 19:15-22:00
  • Saturday: 14:00-17:00 and 19:15-22:00 Ticket prices range from CNY 20 to CNY 100 per seat, and balcony tickets are available for CNY 400 to CNY 500 (includes 5 seats, tea, and snacks).

Beijing Opera schedule:

  • Friday: 19:15-22:00
  • Sunday: 14:00-17:00 Tickets for Beijing Opera performances are priced at CNY 30 per person.

Address: A1, Beiwei Lu, Xuanwu District.

Menghuitianqiao – Sanlitun Theater of Deyunshe

Chinese name: 梦回天桥—德云三里屯剧场

This theater is a newly built branch of De Yun She and features traditional Ming and Qing style decor. In addition to the comic dialogue shows, you can also enjoy mouth-watering local snacks here.

Ticket prices range from CNY 30 to CNY 280 per person, and balcony tickets are available for CNY 600 to CNY 3800.

Address: No.4, Gongti Dong Lu, Chaoyang District (located across from the Sanlitun Yashow Clothing Market)

Zhangyiyuan Tianqiao Teahouse

Chinese name: 张一元天桥茶馆

This teahouse is another popular venue known for traditional comic dialogue shows. Performance schedule: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 19:00; Saturday and Sunday at 14:00.

Ticket prices range from CNY 30 to CNY 60 per person and include a cup of tea.

Address: No.18, Wanming Lu, Xuanwu District (opposite the Oriental Hotel)

Santosa Tea House

Chinese name: 圣淘沙茶楼

Considered one of the most luxurious teahouses in the city, Santosa offers a variety of Chinese and Western cuisine in addition to tea and performances.

Address: Jia-1, Waiguan Xie Jie, Andingmen Wai, Chaoyang District.

Average cost per person: CNY 200 to CNY 1,000.

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