Posts Tagged ‘tea culture’

While travelling with my friends in Guangxi province, southwest China, I was in the small backpacker-mecca of Yangshuo, nestled on the side of the Li River, in Guilin county, home to some of most well known scenery in all of Asia. Along the river, huge limestone karst peaks jut up into the air, giving the landscape a surreal beauty. The surrounding area is home to many of Chinas ethnic minorities, people who have a very distinct culture, lifestyle and language compared to the majority Han Chinese, who compose 90% of the population. Some of these minorities include the Zhuang people, Chinas largest minority and the Yao, famous for the womens really long hair. The town of Yangshuo, which is largely comprised of traditional white-washed houses, has become a backpackers paradise in recent years, with the main street, Xi Jie (west street) coming to refer more to the fact that is is full of westerners than that it is on the west of town. But several minutes of cycling will take you away from the western cafes, bars and hostels and into pristine countryside, where rice paddies and buffalos dominate, with the huge karsts jutting up randomly.
One evening I was walking along the street and I noticed a small teashop, called Seven Stars, so I decided to take a look and was invited by the owner, Annie Zhou, to sit down and try the local tea, Cuiyu, which is grown by her family in the nearby countryside. It had a distinct chestnutty taste with a clear green colour and the leaves were coated in small white furs. Her brothers plantation was opened in 2000, when he realised that as living standards were higher, people could afford to drink high quality tea. The plantation now covers 40 hectares of mountainside nearby Jiaobalin, a small village outside of town.


Annie can organise tours of the nearby area, including the tea plantations and she will often perform the tea ceremony for visitors, where you can sample many different teas in a relaxed atmosphere.


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Many people who are familiar with China or martial arts will know that spread throughout the 72 peaks of Wu Dang are numerous Taoist temples, meditation retreats and Kung Fu schools. But what is lesser known is that this mountain range is home to some exceptional teas.
For centuries Wu Dang has been shrouded in secrecy, the Taoist monks who live here have practiced Qigong, a kind of esoteric excercise combining soft movements, breathing techniques and meditation, for centuries. Around 1000 years ago an immortal named Zhang San Feng was said to find his way to this place, where he brought his Kung Fu. But after witnessing a fight between a snake and a crane he was inspired by the graceful and flowing movements of the animals and so was said to have created the “internal” branch of martial arts, which doesnt rely on brute power or strength, but on yielding to force and developing Qi, an intrinsic energy in the body.
he martial arts developed and grew, and so did the monasteries on the mountains, with Wu Dang becoming a centre of many Taoist academic studies, not just martial arts but also medicine, fortune telling and agriculture. Of course with a refined understanding of the cycles of change in nature and the seasons, the monks were able to grow outstanding crops, one of which was tea, which survives to this day.
At Wu Dang over 20 different kinds of tea are produced, all of which are organic and grown according to ancient taoist agricultural methods.They have many varieties of green tea, including Zhen Jing, Kung Fu and also wulong and black teas. I would love to see these teas become better known and spread, and hopefully in the future I will make them available to the west, so let me know if you are interested.

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