Kunming April 2011… I am hear to get a first hand version of the weather, and visit Lincang county to see the first grow and assess the coming black tea crop. Some of the best black tea that is produced in China comes from this area, and it is one of our best selling black tea. Our tour will also visit the area in June. I’ll find out more about puer when I visit Puer City for a puer conferance in a couple of weeks. The weather here is great. Kunming is called the spring city because the weather here is almost like a spring day. There was a minor drought in Yunnan prior to the tea picking season, but the was plenty of rain just before the harvest was to begin. That means that the 2011 crop was not affected like it was last year. That doesn’t mean the price for the first picking will necessarily go down.
Kunming has changed a lot since the first time I visited here with my son Josh. He was 9 or 10 at the time. We were with a Chinese tour group. They are easy to spot in the airport because they all have brightly colored baseball hats and follow the leader who waves a little yellow flag on end of a long rod. We stayed in a hotel with a sign out side saying ‘No Foreigners’, but we were allowed to stay anyway with not even a word spoken about it. People are very friendly then and now. Now the roads the are good ,if not the rush hour traffic, there is plenty of WIFI where ever you go, and foreigners are everywhere as well. No more signs and prices that apply to everyone unless you are buying fruit from a street vendor.
The food here is great as it is across China. One of my favorite dishes is called “Across the bridge noodles.” It is an enormous bowl of chicken soup, with a wide assortment of ingredients that range from bee larva to quail egg to flowers to pickled vegetables, and tastes so great that it is hard not to eat every bite in the huge bowl. There is a very romantic story that goes along with the soup, about a young man studying for the national exams and his beautiful wife bringing him lunch everyday, across a bridge where he studied in a small park, while he caeved out a future for his young family in books. She developed a technique for keeping the soup warm and her husband happy. Of course it is not true, and according to my friend Dr. Su, a professor at Kunming university, the soup actually developed a county away, that had developed so pottery very good at maintaining the heat of the soup. He did agree with me that both stories need to be told.
The Green Lake, although tiny in comparison to West Lake in Hangzhou, is as lovely and brightly colored with people, paddle boats, and vendor stands,, as are the traditional dress of the many ethnic minorities that live in Yunnan. There are street performers, groups of people signing, children playing, and lovers walking and taking photos of each other against park inside a lake. It is such a lively, warm, and joyful atmosphere, unlike West Lake where the people are more subdued, while still happy, . seem a bit overwhelmed by the vastness. It is the largest and oldest city park in the world, and are on the way to see as much as they can on their trip. Yunnan people love to fine a space and dance and sing.
We had a great dinner beside the lake untroubled by the summer mosquitoes that love the lake. The fat back cooked with sheng puer leaves was tasty if not a little bit cholesterol rich. There was even some good red wine that would certainly not have been on the menu ten years ago.It is not hard to get a good cup of puer here either. The interest in puer has increased so much since I first came it is as impossible to mentally measure as is the thousands of miles of highway that has been created in the same span of time, making it possible to get to those beautiful mountains where the tea is grown without taking weeks to trudge though the muddy roads.