Wu Yi Shan is about an hour’s flight northwest of Xiamen and is the volcanic mountainous region where rock oolongs are grown and processed.
Our first challenge was actually getting there: our scheduled flight was canceled so we were a day behind the tour schedule. Then, having boarded the plane, there was a “loud talking crazy” on the plane and although we didn’t understand the words he said, all indications were that he had threatened some of the flight attendants and maybe made some threats about the plane itself. Anyway, they managed to escort him off the plane and we all had to exit and go back through security while they rechecked all luggage and then reloaded all of us.
Finally—we were in Wu Yi Shan and headed to Da Hong Pao National Park to see the mother bushes growing in the rocks and to see all the different rock tea cultivation gardens. It was Saturday, so the park was really crowded with Chinese out for the day, but the “hike” was very beautiful and at the end—where the mother bushes can be viewed, there’s a tea house where we sat and drank various rock teas. This was pretty magical for a tea geek. After, tea, we headed to a Buddhist monastery and had a fabulous vegetarian feast prepared for us…that is…after we sat with our hosts and tasted tea for a while (drink tea, eat, drink tea, eat…etc.).
We thought we were going to get to go Tongmu National Park to see one of the first Lapsang Souchong growers and producers , but we weren’t able to give the guards a good enough story to get through. This area is a UNESCO site and is closed to foreigners (and a lot of locals too).
The next day we went to a local tea producer’s tea gardens and picked some tea, then went back to their processing facility and (after we drank tea) followed the production steps through creating rock oolongs. My most memorable part of this was sticking my head into the room where they do the final roasting and inhaling the rich scent of roasting tea—it was heaven.
Our last day, we had a river raft trip down the Nine Bend River. It was pouring rain, but Dan bought us plastic ponchos and we boarded our raft with our two “raft drivers”. The scenery was so majestic with the very tall rock formations, the lovely river, and tea bushes growing on the mountains—we quietly meandered down the river for an hour and a half.
As I said in my first blog about this trip: it was truly magical and had so many experiences with tea and people, and tea and scenery, and tea and food…. I hope to go to Xiamen, Anxi and WuYi Shan next year—maybe with a few friends, and maybe on to a few more tea places. I spoke with Dan about customizing a tea tour that would include these three places plus, Phoenix Mountain for Dancong oolongs, and Kunming for pu’erhs. I’ll let you know if this all comes together.