Well, let’s see….not really fair to compare Hong Kong to China is it? Hong Kong is home to the most well thought out convenience and efficiency systems. Where else in the world can you check in for your flight and drop off luggage in the middle of the city without going to the airport? Like the super speedy octopus card, Hong Kong also has the slickness of everything from brands to buildings. The city of Rolex watches. Home sweet home, of sorts.
Today, day turned into night as the scariest blackout and downpour descended on Guangzhou. As I left China behind, to be back whenever, my love-hate relationship became evident. It is only so because I have the freedom to leave, otherwise, not even tea can make me love this country. But even so, I hope some day the repressive regime and the paralyzing Confucianism can forever be uprooted from the Chinese life. I hope there will be spectacular mountains, superb cuisine, outrageously gorgeous rivers, arts and crafts, and enterprising, intelligent people. And of course, breathtaking tea like no where possible in the world. Probably not in any of our lifetimes. Today I scored one of the most difficult to make, Mi Duan (Rice brocade zisha) teapots from a famous maker today. These difficult journeys make some of these finds sometimes quite worthwhile.
Passing Guangzhou architecture today called for a great cup of white tea to recover. Symptoms upon arrival here included: acid reflux, nervousness, need to cuss, blurry vision, heartburn, anxiety, and the need to hurl Cantonese at the rude cab drivers… Nothing White Down Silver Needle can’t alleviate. Luckily, settling down to taste for a few more days of recently harvested white teas.
Truthfully, it is getting harder and harder to compete as a tea buyer. The demand in Asia, particularly in China, commands very high volumes, even for out of control high prices. For me to buy these teas directly from high-caliber farms year after year, without enough of a wider audience in the US, is a difficult feat. There is not such a high end tea culture in the US, we are in the niche of a niche. We have been investing in educating about teas for years, and in the meantime, most teas in the US market are still hardly worth the dish wash water. For our tea tea connoisseurs, I am happy to invest in these difficult, strenuous buying trips, but we all have to help spread this culture of tea, for our own sakes, so we can keep buying at this level. A bit more critical mass needs to…
It’s hard to say which is your favorite kid, and so, which is my favorite tea? I love the specialness of each and every artisan tea region I buy from, but if I had to choose one, it has to be Phoenix Mountain oolongs. There is simply no other tea that tasted like it, and no other environment nor trees like these.
This photo of the tea pickers harvesting on top of the old Ya Sai tree (I think, the old ones look very similar) is a photo from Mr. Wei, who is just over 30 years old, and whose goal in life is to surpass his past masters in tea making skills and innovation. Live long and prosper so we can continue to enjoy these fabulous Phoenix teas!
The life force on these arbor type Camellia Sinensis are strong- the roots dig into the rocks and secure themselves as the finger like groves reach upward. One of the original, 700 year old trees, the Song Zong, was chopped up by a madman a couple of years ago, but is regrowing nicely. All around, I noticed just how much giant rock is actually under the thin layer of soil, washed away from the heavy rain. Though Wuyi teas are known as Yancha or Rock teas due to the 10cm layer of soil floating above rocks, the Phoenix teas here appear to be growing in almost the same conditions, on rocks. This character was rarely pointed out, and despite being one of the two most expensive oolongs in China (and therefore the world). Mr. Wei said one of the teas he makes in ultra small quantity is called ‘the Lightening Tree’, and fetches 62,000 RMB per Jin, almost exactly $10,000 USD per lb! Feeling privileged to be having these teas from top of this mountain in our selection every year; the creme of the crop, as they say, from the very first day of harvest, reserved for us despite fierce competition. Friendship and appreciation goes a long way.