Da Gu Yun
This time we go to a region in Shi Xian, outside of the Huang Shan core region.
We arrived in Shi Xian around 2 oclock on April 4th. At this time many of the farmers had come back from Picking Huang Shan Mao Feng and were selling it to the local factories. Farmers in much of China pick what is in season and dont normally specialize in one crop. In the spring it is tea season, in winter they pick flowers.
Farmers will line up to have their teas inspected and weighed. A tea boss will inspect their basket for quality and check for foreign objects that might make the basket heavier. Once quality of the tea picking is determined they will weight it. I ran into some other people from tunxi who were also there to buy tea.
The majority of what I saw was too small for my liking. Teas picked before Qing Ming tend to be too small and lack the full mao feng flavor. We werent there long when my friend Ku found us and brought us back to her Uncle's home. We had lunch and then me and my friend Trevor who was with me set off to look around the fields.
We came upon a very large tea tree, about seven feet; a few of them actually. I had never seen a tree this size in Huang Shan and didn't really know what to think of it. My first guess was that it was abandoned and the owner of that small plot of land had not come back for many many years. We also saw two ladies picking tea, but any conversation I tried to have with them was almost impossible since they only spoke the local language. Later I found out it was the kind of camelia senensis that doesnt make tea but is used for tea oils.
Later that night the Uncle came back and started making tea. I was told he had taught himself to make Mao Feng in order to supply his brother's tea shop in Shanghai.
His Mao Feng was semi made, meaning it used the large rotation kill green machine. He used a long stick to reach into the machine and check the tea. I got to do this myself and realized how hard this step is to judge. You want to find The perfect level of cooking for the tea. Too light and the tea will be raw, to heavy and the tea will burn. What I realized is that the bud holds way more moisture than the leaves, so even if the leaves look ready the tea bud may not be.
After the kill green step, the tea is baked dry. The room was too dark for my camera but this family used a large wood burning oven.
This experience was one of the most hands-on I have had yet. I really got to understand the smaller parts of making tea and appreciate the craftmanships of a tea maker even more.
(written spring 2019)