Today was incredibly busy! We set out to see two tea farms, the museum, and the silk market. The first tea farm we visited was Ruiya’s friend’s house. Her name was Ting. She served us some of her delightful tea and explained to us a little bit about her tea. Her tea was picked before the Qing Ming Festival (pronounced Ching Ming).
Anything that is picked before this festival is considered the best of the best and the first flush (the new buds). They start plucking the leaves 2 weeks before this festival. This festival occurs sometime the first week of April depending on the lunar calendar. Qing Ming festival, literally translated Tomb Sweeping Festival, is a holiday in China. On Qing Ming, people visit the tombs of their ancestors to sweep and clean them, as a way of honoring and remembering the deceased.
One thing I learned is they serve green tea in tall clear glasses so that you can see the leaves “dance” (meaning unfurl and float). It is also called “the agony of the leave giving up its liquor to the water.” When they fill the cup ¾ way up, that means you can stay and have another cup, but once they fill your cup full that means this is your last glass of tea and that your visit is coming to an end.
Going to Ting’s house was definitely an enjoyable way to begin the day!
The second place we visited was the Longjing Tea Culture Village. Ruiya had another family friend there. Her friend showed us their machinery and even made a batch of tea in front of us. The leaves gave off a lovely aroma —I find no other way to describe it except as a ‘roasting scent’ while they were being dried and fired.
During the firing process the tea-processor used his hands to shape the leaves in the hot pan. Twisting or rolling them with his hands as he dried them. We also had lunch there, which consisted of fresh fish, soup, some chicken, and sautéed eggplant. After eating and visiting, we purchased some tea then we walked through the tea gardens. We ascended a hill where the 18 tea plants were cordoned off. According to Chinese history, Emperor Qianlong was so impressed by the Longjing tea produced here that he conferred these 18 tea bushes special imperial status.
The third stop on our itinerary was the National Tea Museum. There I learned about tea, its history and how it became part of the Chinese culture. It was also nice and peaceful, there was a fountain, walking path and the tea gardens around it. We unfortunately had to hurry through the museum since we were running late. After leaving there, we returned to Ting’s house and purchased some of her tea. Our last stop was the silk market. The street looked as though it was a mile long with stall after stall of silk. The items in the shops tended to repeat themselves, but it was nonetheless glorious.