The tour started on October 23 with a day trip to to witness Tie Guan Yin tea production. The ride from Xiamen to Anxi took about 2 hours and I really value these rides because we so so much of everyday Chinese life: from the various vehicles and people on the road, to the towns we drive through. The subject of driving is an interesting one: I feel its best not to watch the oncoming traffic when traveling in China. The Chinese have a rhythm of driving that works really well for them, but will horrify most Americans, and, this being noted, I’ve seen only one fender-bender on the roads.
Our two hour drive took us from sea level to about 2,000 ft. elevation.
In Anxi we went to a small Tie Guan Yin processing facility and experienced the process of withering, bruising, firing, rolling, firing, rolling, and then drying and finally baking (although some Tie Guan Yin is left unbaked). The firing and rolling part of the process is repeated up to 30 times. When we first arrived at this particular facility, we were led into the small withering room that had an incredible and intoxicating scent that defies description—very floral and fragrant.
After that we traveled farther up the mountain to see the original Tie Guan Yin mother bushes (said to be from the early 1700’s). The farmer/tea master/owner came to lunch with us and then we all went to taste tea at his storefront. So much tea, so little time.
Back in Xiamen, the next day, we visited the shipping ports and talked with a freight forwarder about importing. Over the next few days we visited Piano Island (an expatriot residence area from the 1920’s) where we found a fabulous old tearoom and tasted tea for two hours (tea drunk is real).
I have to mention our visit to Ten Fu Tea University. The most memorable part of this event was the lunch in their food facilities–we had: tempura tea leaves, tea leaves in our soup, and tea leaves in the stir-fry.
Pretty much every day was: eat, visit tea gardens, drink tea, eat, visit tea gardens, drink tea, eat, drink tea, sleep. For a tea geek, it was heavenly.
I have to say, even though Xiamen is a modern city, it was beautiful (reminded me of San Diego)and I really enjoyed our hotel and neighborhood. In the mornings, instead of eating the Chinese breakfast at the hotel, I opted to walk the neighborhoods and just experience Chinese life. I never felt unsafe in the Chinese cities and the people have were always helpful and welcoming—they love to have their picture taken with us.
In my next post I’ll talk about our time in WuYi Shan