Waaaaaaaaaaaay out in the beautiful countryside past bamboo groves, we drove up Mo Gan mountain to visit with Mrs Wang Qiang Zhen and watch the Mo Gan Huang Ya (a rare yellow tea) process. The local TV station had arrived before us and was eager to film our reaction to the special tea process. One of our participants, Alexis, was interviewed for the show and follow-up newspaper article. We felt like rock stars.
Pickers were coming in from the gardens with baskets of buds. They lined up at a window and awaited judgment of their harvest. Each load was winnowed before it was weighed and tallied in a book next to the picker’s name. After drying for some time on bamboo mats, the tea was fried in a fire-heated wok in batches. Each wok was attended by more than one person because the heat was too high for one person’s hands to stir the tea continuously for several minutes. After being removed from the wok, the tea pressed and rolled on a bamboo mat to remove tea juices. It is then poured into pieces of muslin and folded into packets. The muslin tea packets are placed on baskets over coals. The basket is covered with a bamboo mat and the tea is left to continue drying over the smokeless coals. Wok frying and coal drying is continued for seven to ten hours; until Master Wang determines it is finished to perfection.
Mr Tu Zhen Lin, also a yellow tea master, walked us around his gardens atop Mo Gan mountain. We had beautiful views of the valley, tea gardens for miles, and other homes dotted along the hillside.
After a country lunch at the tea plantation, we drove back into town and took a boat tour around the Xia Zhue wetlands. In a teahouse on stilts set in the middle of the wetlands, we enjoyed a tea of salted green soy beans, salted mandarin rinds, sesame seed and a few tea leaves – all said to help arthritis.
We had a long dinner with a government official and Mrs Wang’s son, Xue Feng, and awaited the delivery of our freshly tea that we watched being processed that morning!