[Guest Post] Operation: Tea

12 Jun

My wife, who is a writer who sometimes writes about China, said she wanted to write about our adventure yesterday.  And she did!  So here it is.

It was the day before Dragon Boat Festival and all through the largely populated town, not a person was stirring, except for the woman carrying a huge load of styrofoam.

Who needs gravity?

Who needs gravity?

We had to wake up early on a day that we could have stayed in bed, but we were lured away from the cuddles and cozy of morning happiness by the prospect of morning tea. Tea I tell you. Tea.

Morning Tea and Dim Sum is infamous in Guangdong. From our apartment in the hotel we watch the elderly stroll through the fuchsia flowered pathway to enter the Zi Jing Yuan hotel restaurant where they pick small bites to their heart’s content. This morning, however, we were to catch a bus 9 stops west in order to meet our friend, Xiaoyan and her daughter at the Guangzhou tea market.

At morning tea we ate a plethora of Guangdong delicacies:

After our bellies were filled with delicious dim sum and our hearts warmed by the Pu’er tea we headed over to Xiaoyan’s friend’s shop. Feng is a second generation tea exporter. His family is from Fujian province, which is famous for their tea plantations. As we walked into the shop we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of packages exposing aged, fermented, young, fragrant, and other adjectives tea. It was amazing. My goal was to pick and choose cheap BUT good tea to take back to the states and share with family and friends. Feng sat down in his tea master chair and led us through the process.

We watched as he expertly popped the electric kettle onto the invisible hot plate and popped a switch which poured an exact amount of water into the pot. He arranged the tiny tea cups (enough for a sip) with a tweezer like device and began the process of washing the cups with bubbling hot tea. All the while he and my husband puffed on a cigarette (which I had initially disapproved of, but because it is a customary gesture of Bro-ness I ignored my no smoking policy).

First, we tasted Oolong. very similar to the black tea we have back home, but Lipton ain’t got nothin’ on this. The Oolong is tannic with a hint of fermentation, and when it slides down there is a small sense of sweetness which quickly disappears.

Next the beautiful Chrysanthemum tea – but this is no plain flower tea, oh no – this tea is High Altitude tea grown to enhance the color and floral flavor. There were two varieties, one was expensive and the other not so expensive. The difference we noted was that the more expensive tea had a higher amount of petals and the petals were fermented longer. The tea tasted the way it looks: orange. And I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that it tasted like sunshine and warm afternoons. It’s cheesy, I know, but just wait til you try it – I bought some to bring home.

Finally we tried the newest and most popular export from Fujian Province, specifically Feng’s hometown in Fuding city. This tea is grown at the foot of mount Tailao and like every good Chinese tea there is a story pieced together through translation:

The old woman lived on the foot of Tailao mountain and the children and families around her were becoming sick with measles. Everyone was dying and nobody had a remedy. In the night the Orchid came to the old woman and told her to take the silver leaves of the plant and boil it to produce a pure tea, smooth and cool in nature. The woman obeyed the orchid and provided a remedy for the villages surrounding the mountain.

None of us had the measles, but all of us could taste the exquisite nature of the White Tea. The tea that Feng shared with us (I, again, bought the less expensive version to bring home and share) goes for an average of 50,000 RMB per half kilo brick. So the serving of white tea that we shared approximates to about $5 per sip. Did it taste that good? Well. The tea was warm and clean. It was extremely smooth and we all agreed that we felt a little buzzed after the white tea.

After we were drunk with tea and our palates could take no more stimulation we headed over to the tea paraphernalia shop, where Chris was a big, giant bull in a literal China shop. He clamored behind me and eventually stuck to staying outside the front door for fear of breaking every last thing in the shop.

With our “bring people gifts from China” budget, we were able to procure enough tea to sip and share with our friends back home. And so it is finished.


Add comments: