Learn About Tea, Travelogue
April 15, 2009
Well it was short, but the tea is sweet. Emeric and I were in China for only 5 days. On the first day, we got into Shanghai late in the afternoon. Yet I had my first meeting in 1/2 hour. I have great contacts in ZheJiang, but my contact in SuZhou disappeared. Thus my source for DongTing BiLoChun was gone. So I met this couple that owned a garden on the island. They were very nice and now we have a good source. Also I had dinner with a friend that was a big seller of speciality puerhs. He told me that the demand for puerhs has dropped dramatically (that made my night).
The next day we drove down to HangZhou. An hour later we were on the road again. It was up to a new producer in Anji. This area up in the north makes a special green tea called Anji BaiCha (white tea). Yet it is not like Fujian White tea, rather it looks shades of light green. It is the type of tea that gets Chinese teamen excited. My friend, Lu that has traded tea in ZheJiang for decades stated it was his favorite tea. It sweet and light, yet it has good body. That night, we dined at a tea restaurant in downtown Anji. Most dished had a tea theme, those that did not used fresh bamboo ( the other speciality of the region) We ate in a room full of antiques and a rough wooden table. It put us in the mood.
The next day it was up early and a trip down south to QianDao (Thousands of Islands). Our friend was building a new, huge factory. So some good publicity, he had a local TV station interview me. Then he wanted to impress a local politician with foreigners. So before long, then day was almost over. But, but we had not seen any tea gardens. After stamping our feet and holding our breath, he came up with a plan. And it was a good plan. We jumped into a speed boat and went to an island that makes a nice tea. Luckily it was a beautiful, sunny day. This was the first time I made an amphibious approach. The tea was not the best, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Another day, another trip, on Thursday went south to Dao Ren. This is an organic garden that makes a tea we have bought called Dao Ren Mao Feng. To make Mao Feng tea, the tea plucked must be a bud and 2 leaves. This is made a bit later. At this time they were making a tea with just a bud and a leaf. This makes a tender leaf and a nice brew. However, we found it overpriced in comparison to other Chinese green teas. The other thing we evaluated was the effect of traditional hand processing versus machine processing. More and more in China, machines are replacing costly humans to makes teas. And this applies even to expensive spring teas. Sad but it is true. The day that we visited Dao Ren, they were making both methods. We tasted them and there was no question. The human work made for a better tea.
The last day we went up to Mejiawu in the Lung Ching area. It was a pretty day and all of Hangzhou was out in their cars. So traffic was terrible. We took the back way to Mejiawu. While there, we carried out an experiment between 2 competition grade Lung Chings. These great teas were made in Mejiawu, but they came from 2 different plant stock. One was from the traditional plant and the other came from the “43″ plant that was developed recently. Although they looked similarly, the difference was that tea made from traditional tea plants was less of a “noses” (pleasant aroma) but more body. Our Chinese friends said the the “43″ was developed to make a Lung Ching tea that was even greener than traditional Lung Ching.
After the tasting, it was a dash to the airport (rather it was sitting in terrible traffic). Then we went to Hong Kong and back home. We bought some great green teas: Bi Lo Chun, Lung Ching, Anji Bai Cha, JinShan and a delicious black tea from Zheng He in Fujian. So although it was a no-huddle style of a trip, it was just what we needed. We came back with some great teas and some more knowledge.