Tea houses are flourishing in China

There were many tea houses in China until Mao shut them down. No dens of vice, they represented entertainment and debate. People went to tea houses to enjoy a cup of tea and join in a discussion, or for a poetry reading, or simply to sit and listen to the chirping of the caged crickets.

Today, tea houses are back in fashion. They are flourishing all over China, and it is interesting to see the very young clientele that regularly frequents them. These customers clearly enjoy a certain standard of living, because tea is not always cheap in the tea houses, especially those located in areas popular with tourists, like this one in the centre of Kunming, by the delightful Green Lake.

Posted in Country : China by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , ,

Pu Er tea cakes are compressed mechanically

In the past, Pu Er cakes were compressed by hand using a large stone with a handle and convex underside to weigh down the leaves.

Today, it is carried out in a similar manner. Once the tea leaves have steamed, they are wrapped tightly in a cloth. They are then compressed mechanically, as you can see in this photo taken in a suburb of Kunming, at the Gu Dao Yuan Tea Factory.

Posted in Country : China by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , ,

Pu Er tea cakes are steamed

Traditionally, Pu Er tea is sold in “cake” form that weighs 357 grams. Here, you can see the first stage in the manufacturing process: the woman weighs the tea to the nearest gram, then tips the exact quantity into a metal cylinder with a perforated base, which she places above a source of steam. On contact with the steam, the tea leaves soften and are then are ready to be compressed.

Posted in Country : China by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , ,

Pan-fried hornets with chilli and garlic

Part of the experience of travelling is escaping from your usual routines. What a joy to be able to discover the habits and customs of our fellow men! Here is one such example…

While stopping off in Lisu (China) I was honoured to be invited to lunch at a little riverside restaurant, a short distance from the main road on which we were travelling. There, in the peaceful surroundings with only the gurgling of the stream and the enthusiastic trilling of a couple of mynah birds to distract me, I waited to see what my hosts had ordered.

For those who one day might travel to this part of our beautiful planet, I feel a bit guilty for spoiling the inevitable surprise and pleasure of discovering a dish so little known in our own country, despite its wealth of gastronomic curiosities. But given that hornets – for this was the local delicacy in question – are so common in the south of France, it seems a shame to deprive our friends in Provence of a recipe that is so easy to prepare and would not fail to impress their guests.  And as we approach the end-of-year festivities, which are always upon us sooner than expected, are we not looking for a more unusual festive dish to make a nice change from turkey or capon?

Here’s an extract from my tasting notes: “A particularly intense contrast between the head of the insect (one of which is at least 10 cm long) and its abdomen. The head, grilled to perfection, is crunchy in the mouth, while the creamy substance that escapes from its abdomen lines the palate, coating the tongue in a thick, generous matter that slowly develops lingering aromas…”

Accompaniment suggestion: I think a “Bourgeons de Yunnan” tea would suit perfectly with our dish.

Posted in Country : China, Recipes by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , ,

The Lisus climb giant tea plants

Many ethnic groups live alongside one another in the province of Yunnan (China). The Hans are there of course, as is the case across China, but at least 20 minority groups live there too, including the Dais, Miaos, Nus, Huis, Was and Yis. Here, on the border between China and Myanmar (Burma), we are with the Lisus.

These people live from farming in the remote mountainous regions. They also grow tea, or rather, they harvest the leaves that grow on giant tea plants. It is an incredible sight to see them in their traditional costumes climbing to the tops of trees 10 or 20 metres high, wicker baskets on their backs, working away. It makes you hold your breath.

Here, I have caught two Lisus women closely examining the Théophile Guide. They are looking at the list of stores on the back cover with quite serious expressions that contrast with the strings of brightly coloured fluffy balls that swing gently on either side of their faces.

Posted in Country : China by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , , ,

The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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