About a week ago, I found a really interesting article in the local paper's travel section about Long Jing tea. It referred to this green tea as the most famous green tea in the world, which struck me as funny because I'd never heard of it. Not that I'd venture to guess what the 'most famous' was. Nevertheless, I was still a bit unsettled by this news.
As I read through the article, I was more and more curious about this elusive tea. The tea 'Meisterin' (mistress) is quoted as saying that she doesn't release the tea to the outside world in shops, but that people go there to try her tea and then sometimes take a few bags home. My cynical side thought, 'This is the travel section. They're trying to get you to go there.' Which you can. And tour the plantations and everything. It's only about 200 km down the coast from Shanghai. Not so hard to imagine making the trek if you were already in that part of the world.
I'm going to go into more details about this article another time (there's just too much information to try and cover all of it in one go), but I will talk about two things that caught my eye.
The journalist asks her what makes tea from the mountains around this village so special. She admits that although tea is ultimately all tea, that's a bit like saying all wine comes from the same sort of vine. It has to do with many things-the distinctive quality of Long Jing-whether it be the temperature their, the amount of rain, the number of sunny days, the time of year that it's picked and the length of time between picking and preparation. All those things play a part, but she says, but what's most important is the love that's in the whole process.
Once again, there's a part of me that wants to say, 'Please. Are you kidding? You can't quantify love.' Certainly not the love that goes into the preparation of tea leaves. But I want to believe it. I desperately want to make that leap and believe that the monks saying their mantras while they cook the leaves in a pan has something to do with the other-worldliness of this tea.
The other thing she tells the journalist is that people from all walks of life come to see her tea house. That she has tea novices and billionaires come in to try the tea and that after 3 or 4 cups that all people are the same.
There're those three cups of tea again.
Now, I know this logic is also a little questionable. I guess it's the same idea that disease knows no socio-economic boundaries. Cancer can strike no matter what your status. And the divisions that we walked into the tea house with are inconsequential when we're sitting in the glow of enjoying our tea. But when I get up and walk out alongside that billionaire, none of his filthy wealth has rubbed off on me. I think I get the bigger point though, and that's what I want to explore in more detail later.
The first thing I wanted to do was ask if you'd heard of this tea. Does one really have to go a few hours southwest of Shanghai to try this stuff?