During my trip to Zhenghe, Fujian, I had the privilege of visiting a tea farm owned by the Long He Tea Company.
It had been my dream for so long to see a terraced tea farm in person, so I was incredibly excited!! I couldn't wait to admire the view from the top of the mountain, and see the tea leaves in their original Camellia Sinensis form!
One drizzly morning, I was given a ride over with a few other guests. We arrived at the foot of the tea mountain at around 9am, after our usual breakfast porridge, and began the short hike up. To my surprise, the scenery along the way was also a treat! We were surrounded by a beautiful forest of tall bamboo trees.
View from the top
After about twenty minutes of walking up the bamboo path, we reached the top! I soaked in the view of the vast tea country below, and breathed in the cool, fresh air. The feeling was incredible... :)
Rows and rows of never-ending tea bush, amplified by the backdrop of gorgeous mountains. It was a truly spectacular view that exceeded my imagination in so many ways.
Here are some photos, although they really don't do it justice!
Now for the fun part: Plucking the tea leaves!
We left our belongings in the little wooden hut (pictured above), and walked along the trail to the rows of tea bushes. One of the other guests happened to grow up in tea county, so she explained what her mother had taught her:
Pick the young bud at the top, accompanied by 2 leaves.
Simple enough! Taking my bamboo basket, I began plucking away. It was really awesome to experience this first-hand. And I also found the different layers of leaves fascinating. I remember the ones at the bottom feeling much thicker and tougher compared to the tender buds at the top (which explains why they pick from the top for high quality tea).
By the end of it, I'd accumulated a couple handfuls of tender tea shoots, which although not very many, I felt quite proud about! I had picked my first set of tea leaves and now understood generally how the plucking process worked (woohoo, progress!). The plan was to then dry those leaves on bamboo trays back at the Academy, to experiment with after.
Although the other guest with tea plucking experience was noticeably faster than me (haha), I still very much enjoyed the experience. Next time, I'd love to go during high season and pluck alongside the local tea pickers. I wonder how many they could pick in one day, and their thoughts on the process...
Time to Relax and Drink Tea
Now that we'd done our share of tea plucking, we went back into the wooden hut and brewed ourselves some delicious white tea! It was so nice sitting in this peaceful hut, sipping on a hot cup of tea and chatting with the girls about our morning.
They asked me questions about where I was from, why I was in Zhenghe etc, and I explained that I wanted to learn about the tea-making process. In turn, I learned that they were from different provinces in China, all working in the tea industry, and came out here on a friends retreat. That day I also learned a new Chinese word, yong gan (勇敢), which means courageous. One of the girls had called me that in response to the fact I came out here by myself (the concept of solo travel is still not really practiced in China).
One of the things I love about tea is its ability to bring people together and facilitate good conversation. What a perfect way to end a perfect morning!
Note: All photos in this post taken by Mona Jhunjhnuwala on June 2017 in Zhenghe, Fujian, China