An early start today, as Mr. Alan Wang - our supplier for Ti Kuan Yin and Huang
Jin oolongs - is driving us to the tea farms. Anxi is about a 2 1/2 hour drive
from Xiamen, and actually, the last 90 minutes of the drive is all tea
countryside. As we leave the city, we start to pass many small farms and street
shops. Businesses in China are very interesting, as everyone does their work out
in the open and the shops have no real doors. So, you can see everything that's
happening and it's quite captivating. People tending their small plots of
vegetables, fixing motor bikes (lots of motor bikes here), chickens and cows
roaming, old men smoking and playing cards... and of course, people gathered
around tables sorting tea leaves. In the tea season, the sorting goes on
everywhere, all the time. The tea makers are sorting out stems, imperfect
leaves, twigs - all by hand. That's right: every ounce of your oolong has been
meticulously scrutinized before it even reaches us to taste test.
With about an hour left in the drive, we reach the mountains and slowly make our
ascent into the heart of oolong tea country. As charming as they are, ignore
those small, lower elevation farms along the roadside; that tea is no good. Keep
going, grasshopper, and with patience (and a sturdy stomach!), you will see the
real oolong treasure.
We pull up to Mr. Wang's organic farm (he owns a few farms and factories in this
area) and start hiking further up the mountain. The air is still, quiet and
fresh. We come to our first plot of tea bushes - these are merely babies, just a
year old! They're adorable and sweet smelling. In May, they will be ready to
offer their very first Ti Kuan Yin harvest. Last year, Adagio allowed our
customers to adopt tea bushes in China, and these are those same bushes (they
say "hello", by the way, and thank you for planting them!)
After more photos and videos, we enjoy a generous lunch with our farmer friends:
fresh vegetables, noodles and meat, all grown right here on the mountain (you
must come here and try stewed bamboo - Cynthia and I almost ate a whole trunk).
It is unbelievable, and we are most humbled to be sharing such an experience.
We hike across to another farm on the mountain, where our Huang Jin oolong is
made, and then take a look at two of Mr. Wang's tea factories. He is very
fortunate because the freshly harvested leaf can be made into oolong right on
the same property; he does not need to send it off, far down the mountain to
someone else to finish. The factory is quiet now, waiting for the leaves to be
ready for harvesting. In a few weeks, the bamboo trays, baskets, rolling plates
and wood fired ovens will be working around the clock, making the fresh tea.
We spend the rest of the afternoon at Mr. Wang's office down in the town at the
base of the mountain. This is also where he packs some of his tea into teabags
for other customers. Many lovely oolongs are cupped and we got to look at some
of the truly amazing machinery that helps with the tea packing process. For
example, Mr. Wang has a machine - one of only 3 in all of Anxi County - that
screens out fabric fibers and other super fine particles from the finished tea
that human hands can't always find.
Mr. Wang also takes us to the Anxi Wholesale Tea Market, where tea farmers from
all over the area come to sell their tea. It's a lovely outdoor market, with a
large open courtyard, surrounded by many teashops. You can just walk right in
and brew yourself a tea sample. In fact, they expect you to, because they are
too busy sorting the tea and packing it. Sorting tea is a LOT of work, so you
should take care of your own tasting. How fun is that? This is just like how we
have our Adagio stores set up, actually: we encourage you to visit and come brew
for yourself, learn what you like through hands on experience and enjoy your
tea. We're not busy sorting tea leaves, though, so you can feel free to ask us
lots of questions!
A big meal back in Xiamen and after a very exciting day, we're off to bed.
Tomorrow, we'll visit the world famous Gulang Yu island, directly across from
Xiamen. Mr. Wang says you can't say you've been to Xiamen if you haven't been to