If you’re scrambling to buy gifts before you leave China, consider visiting Tea Street or a nearby grocery store to pick up some Chinese tea. With hundreds of shops, many offering free samples, Tea Street is located only a few blocks from Sanlitun (home to China’s first Apple Store) -- there you will find hundreds of varieties of Chinese tea to fit every budget. Unless you’re an expert, however, it’s difficult to know whether or not you’re getting a good deal. I purchased some tea at Tea Street, but I didn’t even try to bargain -- unlike at the clothing and souvenir markets, I had no clue what I was doing, or if bargaining was even allowed.
If you want to avoid the hassle of bargaining, many larger grocery stores sell tea as well, and offer the same gift packaging that you’ll find on Tea Street. While they’re more convenient and offer lower ticketed prices, grocery stores will likely not offer samples, so purchases may be hit or miss. Stores carry everything from traditional jasmine tea to green tea to flower tea (the dried flowers expand when placed in hot water). Prices range from under 100 Yuan (about $15) per kilogram to 2600 Yuan and up. The gift sets I purchased included about 150 grams of tea (at 500 Yuan per kg) and a gift box for 75 Yuan each (about $11) -- you can mix and match teas in any quantity.