François Marchand - Central China 2012

Central China 2012

Preparations for my annual voyage are often a complex puzzle. My specific objectives, selected artisans to visit and then link it all together with the itinerary usually packed into a short time. Choosing is made more difficult by having to exclude good friends that I have known for years. So this year I had to leave outTaiping Hou Kui, Huang Shan Mao Feng and Huo Shan Huang Ya to name but a few. However the prospect of meeting the producers of Fu Zhuan, leJuan Shan Yin Zhen and a company that are developing a High quality project in organic Fair Trade manufacture were all very exciting.

So this April I arrived in Changsha, Hunan Province, where I spent my first days tracking down an aged tea typical to this region, rich with history. The Fu Zhuan of 2010 that I bought is rich and dark shou style (though the terms sheng and shou are not generally used in this area) .

Next to I movved on to Yue Yang a town on the banks of Lake Dong Ting, in the middle of which the celebrated Island of Jun Shan is found. This Island produces one of China's most famous teas, the rare and delicate Yellow Tea the Jun Shan Yin Zhen. For the first time since 2008 (my first visit to Yue Yang) I toured the the Island with a team of select producers, the only authorized company to transform these rare leaves. Due to the reputation of the tea there are many producers offering 'Jun Shan Yin Zhen' around the edges of Dong Ting Lake, but none have the growing conditions of the Island with its clean, humid air, and tree-covered plantations etc. and that's before metioning the know-how involved in the manufacture. So I was Lucky to tour the Island with these passionate enthusiasts who rather than bragging about quality, confidently let the subtle, authentique aromas do the talking. There was no resisting a lot from 60kg of the highest grade from the first leaves of the season. A rare jewel worthy of Emperors and worthy of its reputation.

I then left Hunan province for Wuhan the capital of the Province of Hubei. In Wuhan I squeezed an extra visit, at the last minute, to a company producing organic Fair Trade teas. It was a revelation! In general Cinese organic or Fair Trade teas are of a more industrial quality for packaged products. But this team was a different story all together. They were producing teas of outstanding quality. I was particularly charmed by theirEnshi Long Jing, Lu Zhen and Yunnan Yin Zhen, all organic and Fair Trade. I will be sure to spend some time in their plantations next year to see the plants and their community projects.

Next stop was a Producer of Xin Yang Mao Jian, both delicious and affordable, then on to Lu Shan source of the Lu Shan Yun Wu. From there on to Wuzhou to consolidate some links with producers of Liu Bao that I had met last year. Here I found the Liu Bao 1996, another gem, very affordable and an excellent quality for its age.

This marvellous journey finished with a quick stop in Hong Kong where I visited some specialists in aged teas one with a spectacular view over the bay from the 32nd floor of a building on Causeway Bay.