After breakfast we get into the car to go explore. First stop is the factory of the family of my guide. The last tea of this season is being processed today and they have been awaiting my arrival. The factory is close by and I rejoice my eyes on the sights in the village. There’s tea bars everywhere, kilometres of roads filled with them. This is a beautiful city. If you were to take away the tea, there’d be no supermarket left, and more important, everyone earns their money here by some form of (production) of tea. Once we arrive at the factory, it’s much smaller than I expected. The tea factories here are not comparable to the ones in Europe, Wuyishan is much smaller, and so are the factories. The families too, also live next to or in the factories, which is also unusual in Europe. In Wuyishan they believe in togetherness of family, and so every member works in the factory. All with the sole purpose to produce the best possible tea. I remark that there is a tea table at the front door, allowing every purchaser to be able to taste the tea before buying. If you’re a wholesale purchaser, there’s an office space upstairs dedicated to tea tasting. Many books have also mentioned that there should be a tea master, the guy with all the wisdom and knowledge about and around tea. He watches and answers: Is the tea ready to be plucked? Should the tea stay in the oven a tiny bit longer? He is the one directing a small number of men what to do. It’s quite a physical task, moving all the leaves from one place to the other, yet a very fast one too, accompanied by quality.
The steps taken in the factory are becoming more clear to me by the minute. It occurs to me that some steps are done based on one’s feeling, instead of the manual. Especially the baking of tea. The leaves are constantly turned around in a gigantic oven, distilled on either wood or coal, to give them the real baked texture. If the tea master however, decided the tea should be baked twice, everyone abides by his advice. So there are some main guidelines as to how to do it, but feelings are greatly considered in the whole process of things. It’s so amazing to be allowed into the whole journey, and witness it with my own eyes. It takes about an hour for us to go through all the steps. I start feeling like I’m just hanging around and watching the whole time, and the itch to get involved is becoming bigger, so I ask the tea master if I would be allowed to participate. Of course I can! I put my camera and bloc note aside, roll up my sleeves and get going. Grand! I’m processing my own tea! Yay!
This blog is about No.026 - Jin Jun Mei en No.011 - Zheng Shan