For the past two nights it has rained in Darjeeling and the surrounding area. By early morning, the sky is clear and the first rays of sun fall on the wet ground.
It is the ideal weather for “second flush” teas as the harvesting begins.
People talk a lot about how China is modernising, and it’s true that the country has developed at an incredible rate over the past 30 years. Nonetheless, nothing delights me more than to travel around China’s countryside and small towns. Taking a detour down a cobbled backstreet, I came across some villagers. They sit on their doorstep, a bowl of noodles in one hand and a pair of chopsticks in the other, and chat away for hours. This is the more gently-paced side of China.
Among the best-known green teas in China are names such as Huang Hua Yun Jian and Yongxi Huo Qing. A couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to visit the villages that produce these two rare, delicate teas. I have a weak spot for the first one in particular.
It is difficult to imagine the number of hours it took me to get there, over mountains and passes, before finishing the journey on foot along a path of stone and mud. It just proves that the finest teas are worth it.
For centuries, the Chinese drank mainly green tea, leaving black tea to foreigners. However, in the past year or two they have become infatuated with black tea. They call it Hong cha, due to the colour of the infused leaf, which is red; the best known here is called Jin Jun Mei. Of course, prices have rocketed, which happens every time our Chinese friends start a new trend.