The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

... All the Tea in China

A friend sent me a newspaper article about a village that grows tea in China. It's an interesting read. I've put an excerpt below. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

A Tea From the Jungle Enriches a Placid Village

PU’ER, China — The sky is nearly cloudless, the breeze is bracing, and the tea plantation where Yao Kunxue works resembles a giant green amphitheater absorbing the last rays of a setting sun.

The tea itself? No thanks, he says. He grows it — what he calls industrial tea — but he does not drink it.

The rolling hills of China’s southern Yunnan Province are the birthplace of tea, anthropologists say, the first area where humans figured out that eating tea leaves or brewing a cup could be pleasant. Today tea farmers preside over large plantations, but they want their tea the way their forebears consumed it: brewed from wild leaves, and preferably from ancient trees in the jungle.

“It has a fragrant smell,” Mr. Yao said of his favorite, harvested from trees at least a century old. “And when you swallow there’s a sweet aftertaste.”

From relative obscurity a few decades ago, tea from Yunnan, especially Pu’er, has become a fashionable, must-have variety in the tea shops of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Surging demand for Pu’er — often advertised as wild tea even if it is from the plantations — has made farmers here rich and encouraged entrepreneurs to carve out more plantations from jungle-covered hillsides.

Ninety percent of the 23,000 tons of Pu’er tea produced last year was grown on plantations, officials say. Local residents seem more than happy to send it to distant locales. They complain about its hard edges — too bitter — and the chemicals that are regularly sprayed on the plants to repel bugs, viruses and fungus.

“The pesticides come through in the taste,” Mr. Yao said.

Here, tea has never been something bought at the market; it grows in the backyard, like blueberries in the woods of Maine.

Domesticated tea plants are trimmed into hedges to make harvesting easier. In the wild, they grow to resemble the old and gnarled olive trees of the Mediterranean but with bigger and more abundant leaves.

Peng Zhe, deputy secretary general of the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, a tea-growing district here, compares the wild tea to fine vintages of Bordeaux or Burgundy.

“To appreciate Pu’er tea is similar to enjoying wine,” said Mr. Peng, who also leads the local tea promotion board. “You need to understand the different areas where tea grows. The fragrance is different from one mountain to the next.”

1 comment:

ms_lili said...

i like the idea of plucking a few leaves from the old tree in the back yard and using them to brew a cup of tea. what could be more natural?