Up the Mountain
As you can imagine, tea making is hard work. Starting with some morning exercise climbing the mountain. This leg of the journey saw Zhen and Jianli in Dengchong village in Anhui Province, a well known locale for yellow tea. Mr. Li is our friend and guide and his dedication to the authentic process for creating Yellow Tea sets him apart. Yellow tea, you see, is risky business. As we head up the mountain, Mr. Li points out the exposed roots of a tea bush. The tea grows among a bamboo forest. The bamboo not only helps to stave off erosion, but it also provides shade, which helps create a more delicious tea. Mr. Li stops to show us tea seeds produced by one of the many wild bushes we see on our climb. Chickens and other animals also wander freely, creating a diverse and wonderful environment.
While we are on the way up the mountain, we bump into a tea plucker returning with their load. The best of these leaves will be made into Liu An Gua Pian. One of the best parts for Zhen was learning from the tea people themselves the nuances of what they look for when they pluck, how they pluck and everything about the plant. Such attention to detail and skill is required. And as you will see, the days are long.
As with most hikes up a mountain, the view was well worth the effort. And once we were at our destination there wasn’t much time for taking pictures. It was a busy day of plucking tea and learning about the tea bushes. Zhen and I grow vegetables so we were both surprised by the type of soil that tea thrives in. Not the black earth we lavish upon our home grown veggies. Tea loves the rugged soil shown here. Once we had gathered our tea we headed back to process it. Time is of the essence in tea making so the tea has to go straight back and the kill green has to happen fairly quickly. The tea here is all baked or otherwise heated from wood fired sources. It definitely has an effect on the tea and at this facility, they actually make their own smokeless charcoal. Once the kill green phase is done, the tea is further dried. The process of drying the tea also helps the appearance of the leaves.