I did as much as I could in Zhejiang, but after several days of running around and marathon cuppings, I have not found much to keep me here in Hangzhou.
It seems that every year, no matter how promising, the weather always turns and messes things up. I guess Mother Nature is not very happy with us humans who are messing with her formula by over-polluting.
This year's harvest started off well with a warm winter and early harvest. But then nature decided to turn and bring in cooler temperatures which damaged some tea and caused a limited harvest. With only a few exceptions, I found this year's tea all exhibited that annoying bitter raw greenish astringency that I hate. With a heavy heart I departed for the Anhui province. I have complained so bitterly for so long about my farmer's Keemun Black Tea that he invited me to visit the factory and to "DIY--do it yourself"!
I arrived after a four-hour car ride from Hangzhou to the City of Huang Shan, my friend Mr. Shao Hui greeted me at his impressive tea facility. He served me a Keemun Xiang Luo in his office. Let me tell you, my heart skipped a beat or two because this Keemun has the signature sweet finish and that unique Keemun fragrance that is not found very often these days. More importantly, it didn't have that under-oxidized raw green astringency you would find in modern day black teas.
Some tea merchants try to tell their customers that this is the new correct black tea where lighter fermentation allows more floral notes to be shown. That may be true and good to them. But for us older guys who have seen what true black tea is suppose to be, that theory just doesn't cut it. Well this tea is as close as I have found to that true standard in many years.
I drank that Keemun right from the glass continuously until they chased me out of the office for dinner. I am convinced part of the equation that makes the tea exceptional is the excellent water here in Huang Shan. But when the tea is processed correctly, it is just good. There's no doubt about it. When it is good you know it.
|Huang Shan Old Street|
After dinner, I did my customary walk-about where I visit local tea houses to see what is being offered and how they serve their teas. Sampling local delicacies and talking to the locals who knows what's up since they live there is a very important part of my approach. I did not discover any outstanding teas but did find some awesome tea
biscuits. They were handmade by a local teahouse who boasted a lineage of over a 160 years of tea making. Their prices are ultra high (over a $100 for an oz. of this year's first harvested Keemun!).
My hopes are high and suddenly I don't feel so tired. I am scheduled to leave early to go the Keemun area to give the factory much more trouble than they've bargain for. I havn't been so fired up for a long time!