This is my last post from the Green/Wulong Tea Tour for 2011. The tour is still continuing for a few more days but I have left to attend the 11th Puer Tea Festival, I’ll write more about this in my next post, but I am currently driving through the beautiful mountains of Yunnan.
The tea tour arrived in Wuyishan after a 6 hour bus ride over the mountains from Huangshan in Anhui on a very new highway that was just opened, otherwise we would not have been able to make it in a day. I had taken a train between the two in 2006, and the scenery was amazing, and it was this year on the highway was as well. There was very little traffic on the highway, and we had the road pretty much to ourselves. Quite a change from the crowded highways of Zhejiang.
We spend the majority of the day hiking in the tea growing area within the Wuyishan National Park. The park has limited access during harvest season, starting last year, and is closed to vehicles, except for a few trams and the people that are harvesting the tea. We where allowed in with a special pass. Although there is normally access to the park that allows hikers to hike into the park to visit Da Hong Pao mother bushes, the actual production areas are not open to the public. That is were we went with special permission from the local park authorities, accompanied by the gardens manager, who was very helpful in identifying various cultivars, farming, and picking practices.
Tea tour members learned why there is only a five day picking window for each cultivar, and could see how strikingly different each are when viewed side by side. We also saw a garden of Bai Ji Guan, the rarest of Yancha (rock wulong); it’s yellow green leaves almost glowing in the midday sunlight. We also saw a new hybrid called Huang Guan Yin, that is a Tie Guan Yin and Buddha’s Hand hybrid that I am really anxious to try. Maybe if we are lucky we will also get enough to sell.
In the afternoon the tour members were able to interview Liu Guo Ying and ask him questions the process of Yancha tea making, followed by a demonstration using the leaves harvested during the day. Members were surprised to find that the processing that happens during the harvest season does not produce the final product, but only the basic ingredient, maocha. The production of maocha will continue through the end of May, and then the final finishing process will begin and last until the end of July. That’s a long time, and some times I am overcome by anticipation Of course most commercial producers will compress the process to encompass just a couple of days, and will not as close attention to the picking window. It is not to say that their tea will not be good, but it will not be great, nor worth the very inflated prices that people will pay.
Like most of the great tea masters, Master Liu Guo Ying no longer competes in the competitions. He has won some many awards there are more than he can fit into his awards room. Still when asked what are his goals having reached the top at a relatively young age, what his current goals are for the future, he just replied that he wanted to get better at making Yancha.
I am also including some videos that I shoot with my iPad on our hike in the mountains, as well as some photos.