A Pre-Harvest Visit to Huangshan

So far China has twice shown me a visual sight so stunning it left me speechless. The first was in the Anxi village of Jian Duo, at the stoke of midnight on Chinese New Year, when the whole village lit up from every villager, and I mean every, setting off the fireworks they had been buying all week.

The second time was last week. I stood next to my friend on the top of his hill looking down at his tea field below. The whole field was maybe only as long as a soccer field and was surrounded by trees. On that particular day there was the famous fog that you see in almost all paintings of Huang Shan. Standing in that field surrounded by trees fog the outside world seemed to vanish and life it self merely seemed a dream.

Huang Shan Mao Feng Field
Huang Shan Mao Feng Farmer looks over his tea field

My friend took me around his tea field pointing out the complex exponents of his garden. One of my first questions was how old his plants were, and I was taken back to find out that some reached a whole 200 years old.

Old Tree Huang Shan Mao Feng
Huang Shan Mao Feng Tea Plant

The field itself was a picture perfect example of biodiversity. The natural woods surrounding the tea and plants growing between them provided rich soil that did not need fertilizers. My friend pointed out a moss like plant that can only grow in very clean and natural environments. (I.E. no pollution or chemicals) The trees themselves had a purple color to some of the leaves and he explained that was because of the cold winter we had just had.

 

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This is the green plant amongst the moss, that I was told is a sign of a great environment.

Most of the trees had started budding, but most were too small. There was the occasional plant with a good sized bud, but not enough to make a batch of tea. (This is an example of uneven budding, a problem that newer made cultivars try to tackle.) He said he would start picking in 7-10 days and invited me back for that time.

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Huang Shan Mao Feng tea tree almost ready to be picked.

He brought me back to his house and showed me where he made his tea. His Sha Qing (kill green) woks and ovens used wood, his baking oven, coal. Even his roller was made out of wood still. Recently I have seen that some people think that Huang Shan Mao Feng is a rolled green tea, when in fact it is only the later picked teas that are rolled. The tea picked earlier, the more sought after ones, are too small and tender to be rolled and honestly don’t need to be. The term mao feng, means the tea took on the natural shape from the process of being made and went under so specialized shape making step.

 

I left the next morning still moved by everything I had seen the day before. When the majority of tea makers are big businesses or new farmers trying to make a dollar, it almost seemed unreal to experience something so pure. Even as I sit here writing this article I can still feel the deep feeling I felt when I stood on the top of his tea field with the only things visible being tea, trees, and fog.

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