at Lu Yu, each tea is presented with its own ceremony.
Dan Goldberg/Getty Images

Chef Simon Leung at Conrad Beijing makes

tea a modern art form

By Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

Steeped

in Tradition

You can be forgiven if, after having tea at Lu Yu—the Cantonese restaurant in Conrad Beijing—you want to meet and thank the proprietor, Lu Yu, himself. The tea here is that remarkable. Just one problem, though: Lu Yu has been dead for more than 1,200 years. He's not the owner; he's the legendary Tang Dynasty "Sage of Tea" who wrote the first definitive work on the art of tea, waxing poetic about how every detail had to be just-so to create the perfect brew. Even all those centuries ago, he stressed the importance of quality water and tools, proper drinking temperatures, and even the best time of day to harvest tea leaves.

Today, the restaurant that bears his name continues this pursuit of perfection. Here, amid the incandescent glow of copper-rimmed light fixtures and celadon walls, tea is the point, not an afterthought. The classic tea ceremony begins at the entrance, where the tea hostess presents the three varieties of tea that are featured that day, from a list that may include black Gong Fu, green Huangshan Maofeng, and many other options. Each brew has its own ceremonial performance, with each ritual featuring the full process: the preparation of water and tea ware, the brewing of the tea, the aroma appreciation—and, of course, the drinking of the exquisite results.

After the ceremony, you are escorted either to the dining hall or a private dining room, where you can continue enjoying your ceremonial tea with your meal—or feel free to try another.

Even better: Tea is meant for more than just sipping at Lu Yu. Head chef Simon Leung incorporates tea into the menu in exciting, experimental ways—like adding green tea to a dish of pork braised in a rich soy sauce. Leung prides himself on customizing his work to visitors' preferences. In fact, dine in one of Lu Yu's private rooms and you'll have the opportunity to talk with Chef Leung as he artfully prepares your meal. Just don't ask for Lu Yu.

Choose Your Brew

The benefits of sipping tea go far beyond taste

To slow aging

White tea is the purest of all teas and has a light color and flavor. It is packed with antioxidants that have been shown to ward off wrinkles by protecting skin's elastin and collagen.

To keep your heart healthy

Green tea is the most popular type of tea and is an excellent source of antioxidants that have been shown to lower bad cholesterol (LDL), raise good cholesterol (HDL), and improve overall artery function. Green tea has also been shown to reduce the risk of several types of cancers.

For fresh breath

Black tea is higher in caffeine than green and white varieties and contains powerful antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, which have been proven to fight the bacteria that cause bad breath.

For weight loss

Oolong tea, sometimes called wu long tea, has been shown to help boost metabolism, helping you burn fat faster.

For glowing skin

Rooibos tea's high antioxidant and zinc content may help soothe skin and keep breakouts at bay.

To boost immunity

Echinacea tea has infection-fighting properties. Studies have shown that it can reduce symptoms of the common cold.

To ease tension

The aroma of jasmine tea has a calming effect on mood and may decrease blood pressure.

The welcome ceremony at Lu Yu restaurant unveils three different varieties of tea leaves each day.