Red Circle Tea

Arriving in WuYiSan

After a day and a half in Guangzhou learning about WuYi oolong tea from my teacher and getting some basic knowledge under my belt, I'm off to learn about WuYi oolong tea on the tea mountain itself. Magically, there's a flight that goes directly where we want to go.

We will arrive early for the harvest, technically it begins in 3 days, but maybe if the weather is just right, we'll be just in time to catch some of the first pickings.

We landed in WuYiSan to slightly overcast skies and walked out of the plane to the tarmac below. There was a short shuttle bus ride to the one room terminal. We walked through it, and past the glass doors to the open street under construction we got a taste of what WuYiSan would have to offer for the next few days: there were about 30 cab drivers offering us rides to nearby attractions and hotels for ten to fifty times the actual cost of a taxi ride to where we needed to go. There was classically cheap and rough new construction all around and electric cables being buried everywhere with new landscaping and fresh petunias in flower beds to our left and right. There are new hotels going up everywhere and WuYi is going to be like a little version of Sochi because there's an Expo coming later this year.

The weather was warm without a jacket and spring is in full season.

After bargaining and waiting for a taxi driver to come down in price we settled on a cab for 40RMB (down from 200RMB) to our hotel. For 4 people that's a very fair price. We checked into one of the cheapest hotels I've ever stayed at in a tea growing area. It also had not been updated (and in some corners not been cleaned) since about 1991. The lights in the lobby were never once turned on in our 5 day stay.

That afternoon we took a walk through the downtown area which is essentially a tea mall and did some sight seeing. There are dozens if not hundreds of tea stores with Big Red Robe tea, Shui Xian, and other WuYi oolong teas, and a few red teas (in English these are referred to as "black teas" because they are fully oxidized) that I'd like to learn more about and lots of stores with carved old growth redwood and sandalwood. There are statues and tea trays and 6 foot tall fat laughing Buddhas made of wood; some tasteful and some gaudy, and beautiful and slightly frighteningly large wooden plank tables.

When I see stores like this I wonder and worry about China's exploitation of natural resources. In jewelry stores I've seen more real ivory than I care to see and I'd like to hope that general regulation of these resources is in place but the truth is it probably isn't.

In the food markets there is a nice and classic assortment of mountain vegetables: bamboo, greens, bitter melons and a really amazing assortment of exceptionally clean mountain mushrooms including the famous Ling Zi (I'm probably not spelling that correctly). There is chicken everywhere a bit of frozen fish and an amazing smoked/cured ham. Beef and goat are written on the menu on the wall. We're pretty far north so there's no soy sauce at the table but you can ask for it and it's super concentrated. There is vinegar though, white and brown.

Our adventure is about to begin! As we discover teas, I'll detail for you what we find.

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