Veni, Vidi, Vici
We're on another bus to Qi Yun Mountain, another mountain, to give it another try to see if we can find Mao feng tea before the Qing Ming festival tomorrow.
We stop at a tea farm where we are treated to a tea tour, and a tea selling session. It's kind of a package deal, like a week at a time-share, you have to sit through the sales pitch. But it was interesting to see organic farming taking root and to see some rescued old tree mao feng tea bushes. The lady showing us around didn't' know the names of these varietals, she might either be a new student herself, or these names could be lost to history.
But the best was yet to come.
After the tea farm. we headed up to Mt. Qi Yun.
There are times when I'm buying tea when things don't seem to be working out, they don't seem to be flowing the way they could, or the way I need them to. It's often at these times that I think success requires questioning my logic - am I really on the right track- and on this trip I was sure I'd picked the right time of year, the right location, but the tea was not forthcoming. And when I find my logic is sound and my efforts are not paying off, I question my instinct, am I really listening to my gut, my heart, I know it won't lead me astray, if I have all the right information, and I do, am I listening closely enough? And if both those things are in order, my logic and instinct, then it's time to go further. Keep going. Keep looking. and when I get to the place where I need to take a leap of faith and take a chance, and I usually find it means facing one of my fears and pushing through that process, I have often found that success is just across that bridge. In my case, it was just up that mountain. One gondola ride away. One heart-stopping, gut wrenching, suspended 300 feet above a river, white-knuckle ride away. I am terrified of heights. That's not so much of a problem when you can usually drive up a mountain, but at this junction, we had a gondola ride ahead of us. And this was my fear: heights. But if you want high mountain tea, you have to go up high mountains. If you want pre-Qing Ming tea, you have to go before the festival. If the tea won't come to you, you must go get it. And I did.
And honestly, the gondola ride up was not half as awful as the ride down, which was horrific. But once on the mountain, my feet felt firm, my heart felt true, and it was time to let the universe take over. I'm here. I came.
We walked from Buddhist shrine to Buddhist shrine, saying hello and thank you to each of the deities, and finally came to the end of the path, and just past it was a small inn with a young girl playing out front on her porch.
We saw what looked like a good place to stopped to eat. As we seated our selves, we were surprised to find that the innkeeper's husband was also a tea farmer. Is that today's tea? We asked, looking at the large bag of freshly processed leaves. And pointed to the 3 foot tall 20 kilo bag on the chair at the table next to us. Yes, would you like to try some? We tried it and asked if it was from this mountain, and it was. That means three things: one, it grows at least at cloud height, since we were just at the cloudline. The tea was hand picked, smaller farmers rarely have access to large equipment to machine harvest. And three it was pre-Qing Ming, since we were there before the festival. The tea was sweet and a little rough.
It tasted like smoke, and the leaves were slightly browned. Out of curiosity, we asked. do you have any tea from earlier in the week, we asked. We thought he might not have any, since farmer's usually sell their tea right away. We couldn't believe our luck when he said yes, and we were brought tea from April 1st. It was fragrant, sweet, it had a high fragrance of sweet rice, new spring grass and yellow flowers. It had a long lasting taste and the leaves were small, green, and perfectly curled.
This was the tea I came for. This was a tea I didn't have to compromise for, that had all the features of a great tea, and it was fresh and high mountain grown. I could not have been more grateful. I bought a kilo of this tea and it will be for sale April 20th when I return.
Did I mention it had been pouring rain this entire time? Well, we got back to the hotel that night, and fell onto our beds. We were exhausted and worn out and soaked to the bone. Our legs ached from hiking and our feet hurt from walking. We were soaked, but the tea in our packs was dry and safe.