In China, there are various ways of using the “zhong”. This recipient – also known as a “gaiwan” – can be used as a cup in which the tea infuses. You drink directly from it, retaining the cover and leaving a slight gap to hold back the leaves.
The “zhong” can also be used as a teapot for “gong-fu”, in which several short infusions are prepared. After each one, every last drop of tea is poured into a reserve pot, from which the guests’ tiny cups are filled.
Everyone then gets to taste a tea with particularly concentrated aromas, and to observe the changes in the liquor’s texture and fragrances, infusion after infusion.
With the weather we’ve had this June, there has been no need to worry about sunstroke. This is not the case everywhere. For example, in Darjeeling this season, when the pluckers have brought out their umbrellas it has been to protect themselves from the sun, not the rain. The women have good taste in their choice of bright, varied colours, making this landscape very similar to a cup of Darjeeling itself. Its floral, flowery, vegetal notes are a real treat for the palate.
Here, near Hangzhou (China), the tea leaves are being processed on the scorching sides of the wok. The leaves are heated before being shaped as required, then dried. They must be processed quickly and precisely, which is why many farmers prefer to work with their bare hands.
We owe the very first writing on tea to the Chinese poet Lu Yu. The Cha Jing, “The Classic of Tea”, dates back to the 18th century. In his book, Lu Yu discusses the nature of tea itself, but most importantly he sets out a method for preparing and tasting it. A statue of this tea fanatic can be found by the excellent Long Jing Tea Museum (China).
I’ve just completed my annual selection of spring teas from Nepal. They will be available in a few days’ time, once they have been shipped by plane. This year, the Guranse and Kuwapani plantations produced the best lots. They are truly remarkable: if you have never tasted these teas, don’t delay! They are worth trying.
Other gardens have made excellent progress and I’ve reserved two lots, one from the Everest Tea Estate, the other from the Kanchenjunga Tea Estate – an incredible plantation located in the far north of the Ilam Valley and run by my friend Dilli Baskota, pictured here. He is passionate about tea and is very involved in the sustainable development of the region.
This is for fans of Long Jing. This is the source of the Dragon Well that gave its name to this prestigious tea and to the eponymous city. It is a few kilometres from Hangzhou (China).
A visit to 18 imperial Long Jing tea plants is an essential stop on the tourist trail around this region. These tea plants owe their status to emperor Qian Long who wanted to demonstrate his love of the famous “Dragon Well”, which remains one of the finest China green teas today.
Supposedly dating back to the 18th century, I wonder whether these shrubs have not in fact been discreetly replaced since then, as some of the stems do not appear as old as that. But for the buyers, this seems of little importance given the price at which their small but ultra prestigious harvest of leaves sells for: 36,000 euros per kilo!
Darjeeling teas harvested at this time of year have a very different bouquet to those plucked in the spring. Woody, fruity fragrances instead of vegetal aromas, for example. But their prestige is equally high, which is why I’m here, right now, selecting the best of them.
Every time I come to Darjeeling I make sure I visit Gopal Somani. We had lunch together on Saturday at his Puttabong plantation. He’s a wonderful man and his experience is worthy of respect: not only does he produce some of the best teas in the region, but he has also taught many other planters.
In China, there are many different ways of drinking tea, as well as a vast array of recipients. The latter range from glass tumblers, which are fairly widespread, to cups made from the finest porcelain. Tea houses have flourished in the country over the past 20 years, and continue to do so. The art of tea is becoming increasingly refined. Great care is taken over the choice of teas to be served, of course, and these are accompanied by some beautiful utensils, like these bamboo tongs which are simply used to pick up a cup.