China Adventures – Making Bi Luo Chun
I knew there was a lot of people in China but wow… not quite this many. It doesn’t help that we (my husband Stewart and I) landed slap bang in the middle of the Tombstone Sweeping Holiday. Despite (or because of) that, we’re having a very successful and exciting tea trip so far.
We had the pleasure to meet a lovely tea master and his family who specialise in Bi Luo Chun green tea which is grown close to lake Tai Hu in Jiangsu province. We were lucky enough to be able to climb a mountain to get to the tea bushes (bit of a shock to the system as it’s the most exercise I’ve done since having my baby!) We spent some time plucking the tea bushes – being careful to only select the very best leaves. I thought I’d done quite well till the tea master took a look at my efforts…. “ah… enough for one cup. A small cup!”
After a rather steep descent down the mountain we helped sort the tea leaves with the rest of the family (as well as some neighbours who had come to visit). It was quite therapeutic but takes a long time to select the bud and one leaf required for this very special tea. The most complicated step came next with the firing and rolling in a big outside wok – very hot work indeed and one that requires years of experience. The fresh aromas from the leaves as they were being fired were amazing and the little downy hairs of the young buds fly everywhere.
Eventually we got the chance to sit down and sample a cup of our efforts. It was delightfully refreshing and exceedingly delicate with a lightly fruity finish. The little spirals of tea took a long time to reach the bottom of the cup as they were so fresh. It is said to be infused with the vapours of Tai Hu Lake as it is grown close to it. With around 150,000 leaves needed for every kg of Bi Luo Chun there really is a tremendous amount of work and skill needed to make this quality tea.
We ate some traditional dinner with the tea master and helped sort some more tea before heading back into the throng of Chinese people heading for our next stop, Hangzhou and the famous Dragonwell Village – home of Longjing tea. More on that adventure soon. To check out our current green teas click here (we’ll be adding a few other special ones over the next few months).