Red Circle Tea

Golden Mountain Island in Lake Tai

The morning sun was a huge relief. The sky was clear and the sun was shining. It was still pretty cold, but no wind, and with 2 pairs of pants on, and the wool socks my mom made for me, I was feeling brave. We hopped on a bus at 8 am and headed out to Lake Tai.

There are at least 3 islands in Lake Tai and we went to the third island, Golden Mountain Island, where the best crops of Bi  Lo Chun grow. The sea air was fresh and salty, the sun was bright and the day grew warm.

We hopped off the bus and met Ms Yang at the main road. We followed her up the road to her tiny village of about a dozen houses.  We walked past her family’s fruit trees of loquat and plums, melons and there were vegetables too:  squash and runner beans. Happy yellow mustard flowers were in full bloom and lush patches of lettuce flagged the road, and if I saw a white rabbit with an Easter basket run through the garden I would not have been surprised. It was that lovely and that idyllic.  Higher up on the mountain, they also farm tea. We set our bags down at her house and took our cameras and hiked up to the top of the mountain.

There were some noticeably different land features in Bi Lo Chun growing area. Pine trees were a new sight for me, and some of the tea plants are shade grown. The air was salty and the ground water we tasted later was calcium rich.

The air was so clean up here, we asked the altitude. Her family’s mountain is 1200 meters, but the highest peak is 3000 meters, and they pick from all over the island.  Here’s the view:

The Bi Lo Chun plants look like they’ve fared better than the Long Jing plants and have far less damage. There was a cold snap in early March, so while the harvest should have started in mid- March, it didn’t start until late March, limiting the amount of pre-Qing Ming tea possible.

Her father offered to let us watch the processing of the tea they picked today. In our next post, we’ll detail Bi Lo Chun Processing.

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