It’s awesome to be driven around together with my Chinese guide, visiting different tea fields and factories. Everywhere I look, I see tea. Tea, tea, tea.
The tea fields look magnificent and different to the Dutch fields I’m used to. Because there’s a difference in altitude, the tea fields cover the sides and tops of mountains. They’re literally everywhere. All of a sudden, my guide wants to stop in a tiny village. She says she has a big surprise. Oh. ‘Wait here, and I’ll get it for you’. I wait anxiously. After a while, she comes back, and yep, she has brought stewed duck heads along with her. Look, if it was an actual stew, or a fried croquette, I might have considered. But this thing in front of me is an obvious duck head. Like, I don’t need to make an effort to visualise anything, I can see it. Clearly. To add to this melodrama, it’s been presented to me in a plastic bag, in a driving car, while my travel companions eat the beak and the bones greedily, and spit out bits here and there into a different plastic bag. Man, I feel happy and unhappy at the same time. BUT, I am in China, and I will oblige, and join in everything they do here. So I do. Except for the spitting part, I can’t get myself to do that. Also, my mum would be greatly disappointed if I did. So i use my fingers to peel off a bit of the pecker. It tastes smoky, and like things I have never tasted before. I don’t have any drink to wash it down with either. I taste the cheek, or whatever it’s called. That’s somewhat better. I check if my travel companions eat the eyes too, and I see they hardly save anything from the head. Uhm, I can’t do this. I try eating as much meat as I can and proceed to chuck the head out of the window (they all do this, with any type of garbage). Okay, I can tick this off my bucketlist; eating duck heads in China, check. I don’t think I will be repeating this ever, though.
We drive up the mountain and I see a beautiful tea fields. Really big and green. I would like to stop here to get a clearer view and stand in between the plants. I would like to know how that feels. I tell the rest of the crew they can stay seated, and that I’d like to go see for myself. It’s enchanting. I stood there quite a time, watching plants sway with the wind, allowing every inch of me to absorb the feeling. The feeling of tea. This is such a different feeling as to coffee. This product is an actual plant, being nothing until touched by a human hand and processed. Nothing until you bring it to life. But so beautiful indeed. Now they’re leaves, extraordinary, but with little taste. I eat a few leaves, pluck some. I climb all the way up and try to breathe in as much air as possible. I realise this whole field needs to be plucked, processed, shipped and set. A massive task I have a small part in! I enjoy the feeling as long as it lasts and run back to the car.
We go back. Back to the village. I am starting to get hungry. They tell me they’re gonna take me to a “special place”. You know, the same people that think duck heads are the best thing invented, ever. My guide tells me we’re going to be attending a ti guan yin tasting, and go to a tea accessories shop. We’re going to pull an all-nighter I guess. Or at least, I thought so. But I had no idea how fast they eat over here. This “special place” is a sort fancy, modern café for the Chinese. Hanging up big pictures of the meals served is quite a popular thing to do over here. It proves quite handy though, making it easier to point out what exactly you would like to eat. Here too, all the ingredients are displayed nicely in front you. The only difference here is that they’re also cooking in front of the display. Funny thing to see. We sit outside, together with the more modern and hip part of the town. So different to this afternoon. Even though I’m with the same people. The food is delicious, with many flavours and no heads to be seen ;)
my hands are aching
After eating we set forth our journey to a lady in Anxi. This lady knows a lot about my favourite oolong: the ti kuan yin, or what they refer to here as tieguanyin. The lady shows me tea ranging from 50€ a kilo to 300€ a kilo. It’s nice to be tasting these different ranges of products from the same producer. She shares her opinions on the preparations, qualities, taste and appearance of the leaf. By now, my hands are aching from writing, taking pictures and holding dishes to taste tea from. Obviously I buy some stuff from here, and experience the appreciation the people show here. Whether it’s a small or big purchase, it doesn’t matter to them. In fact, they insist you don’t buy too much, especially if you won’t use it. Someone else could benefit from it then. The good stuff gets sold, it doesn’t lay around waiting to be bought. This applies to the whole area here. There’s no pressure, good things get sold, and it’s refreshing to see this take on business. I buy a kilo for Crusio Tea, in order to test it. If it succeeds by tasting good together with Dutch tea, I will order some more.
After the tasting, I get offered another tasting opportunity, but my mouth and tongue are tired. Tired from tasting, talking, processing different impressions I got today. I’ll take a rain-check for this one. The hotel seems like a better option for now.
This blog is about No.067 - Longjing