As soon as we enter the area, the sense of complete peace follows suit. I’ve experienced this feeling of complete peace in every field I’ve been to. I can’t seem to grip what or how it is. Logically seen, how can peace exist if there is work, plucking, chatting and climbing involved? Yet somehow it works. Peace that makes even me (which is impossible, or at least, I thought so) really quiet. We all admire the sight and walk over the pathways, rivers, tiny sideroads and massive carved-out staircases made of rock from nearby area. The air is dense and after about half an hour, I realise I’m getting more tired, partly from the heat too. This is what pluckers do every time they work. Wow. Some fields are even higher up than what I’ve climbed up till now. Unbelievable, I know. Each tin of tea shows the altitude of the mountains it's plucked at, and bear in mind that those pluckers have climbed all that way, just for that tin of tea. It’s so surreal. There’s much more work intensity here. I ask my guide how the leaves get to the factory. You see, things are different here. There are no cars allowed. So exactly how do these leaves get to the factory, I ask? My guide tells me that the pluckers work together with men that carry everything for them. The men wait until the harvest has been put in massive bags by the ladies, and then continue to carry them down the mountain, into as car that’s waiting to take the leaves to a factory. So there are a lot of people involved in the works of it.
We walk uphill and see a pathway. I ask my guide where it leads to. A small monastery I’m told. We walk up the path and spot monks working in its gardens. They put down their work, and come to greet us. Ask us if we would like some tea? Of course we would like to have some. Obviously they make the Da Hong Pao tea for us and let me tell you, it’s the most amazing tea I have tasted up until now. There we are, all together, drinking tea, on a mountain. We keep pouring and drinking, until we have to leave. Meanwhile the weather has gotten much better and the sun has started shining again. Because it had rained before, there’s tiny waterfalls everywhere, going down the mountains, and the rivers have filled up nicely, with rapid currents. The sight of it is fascinating.
the older, the better
The area we’re walking in is stunning. Green too. Flourished. It all seems so clear now, so logical, why the tea from this area bursts of flavour. The soil is oxygen rich, making it airy, and thus less dense than the soil at the bottom of the mountain. This ensures that minerals can ‘travel’ through it faster, allowing the plant to absorb this much more than usual. We also see a lot of trees on our trip. You can recognise these by the moss on the trunk. The moss indicates the age of the tree, and the longitude of it. I notice that the colour of the leaves is different too.. The older, the better. The higher, the better. It seems like these things are of significance here.
Three hours later, we arrive at the oldest Da Hong Pao trees, and I stare at them for awhile. They are indeed high up the mountain. Really high. And they’re under 24/7 security. And everyone is taking pictures of them. Basically, these trees are celebrities.
We eat a tea egg nearby the trees in a cafe. These are eggs that have been boiled in tea water. Water of the Da Hong Pao of course. This makes the eggs dark of colour, with a funny smell. But let me tell you, these eggs are marvellous eggs, they taste absolutely amazing, having absorbed all the goodness of the tea.
We go back to the hotel with a local bus. I’d seen them around, but had never used one before. The system to getting around is a bit different to the Netherlands though. It costs 1 Yuan to get a ride to anywhere, and you put the money in a tiny box. Everyone is just trusted to do this, and the bus will stop at every stop on its journey.
Once we’ve arrived at the hotel, it’s time for me to check out. My suitcase is empty. As in, apart from some dirty clothes and a pair of All-Stars in very poor condition. I had kept in mind that I should keep all the free space for tea, samples and tools. I have never travelled with one pair of shoes before. There’s a first time for everything, right? Oh, and I need some (read: a heap) of instructions on how to set the tea, so me and my guide go and find these on the beloved motorcycle.
everything has a story