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Sunday, 01 September 2013

Guizhou & Green Tea - Page 2

Written by Tom Clifford
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Fried fish, pork, vegetables of blazing color were offered with joyous abandon to shouts of appreciative approval. All prepared, cooked and presented within 20 minutes. And then the guilt. Had they enough food for the village, were we eating them out of house and home? We were assured that the village stored its food for months in advance and had more than adequate supplies. On hearing this, pangs of hunger overran the scattering forces of guilt and a white flag was waved from the ramparts of doubt. Not a word was spoken for six minutes as stomachs were replenished and the body sucked nutrition from the offerings.

Our thanks, given with the contentment of full stomachs, were accepted graciously as the plates were cleared. An unqualified act of generosity had been executed. We had been recipients of a kindness to strangers. Outside, darkness had finally overcome its inhibitions and descended, ushering in a time for reflection.

For days we had been traveling through the highs and lows of Guizhou province. Its fertile soil struggles to produce on mountainous terrain but when given a chance on the horizontal it can provide a vertical harvest for the imagination. Nothing, it seems, is beyond its capability. The usual suspects, broccoli, corn, are grown but so too are delicate leaves for tea, tobacco and chilies to jump start the synapses.

Hours before our nighttime feast we had seen May’s darling buds herald the start of teatime for the pickers and saw firsthand, literally, the lengths some people will go to for a good cuppa. As we walked the hills and talked to the pickers I experienced a coffee mourning. The bean has been vanquished from sight and site by the leaves rampant. No café lurks within a radius of 25 km, I was told. An exaggeration perhaps but its presence would seem incongruous, like a thick woolen jumper on a Beijing August day. Time to turn a new leaf. This is Guizhou tea country. If in doubt look to the heavens where a laser beam cuts across the clouds from a giant teapot that dominates the nearby town of Meitan’s skyline.

Tea, especially green tea, is growing in popularity, you could say it’s a top pick.

China exported about 300,000 tons of tea last year, 30 percent of it green.

The art of picking tea is almost as sublime as its taste and requires a surgeon’s delicacy and optical prowess.

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“You can never use your nail or sharp edge like a knife,’’ one picker said. “If you do, you cauterize the cut and it turns black. Each leaf has to be torn, delicately, from the plant.’’

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 01 September 2013

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