As our trip begins to wind down there is still a lot to see and experience. Today I had the pleasure of traveling to Changsha in Hunan Province to visit with one of the largest Chinese tea exporters in the country, Hunan Tea Company. I have known Linda and Hunan Tea for many years now and I look forward to finally meeting face to face.
Changsha is about an hour and a half from Nanjing by plane so I made the visit short traveling round trip in one, very long, day. If time had been available I would have visited the numerous gardens and factories that are run by this large company but this trip we visited only one medium sized garden and factory located about 2 hours outside of Changsha.
Linda picked me up at the airport and we were off to begin our very busy day at the main office located on one of the oldest streets in this modern city. I had the pleasure of meeting many Managers and staff at this large company including Mr. Zhou, General Manager who I chatted with briefly. My hosts for the day were Ms. Linda Wang, Mr. Wu and Mr. Xie who I sat with for a short presentation on the scope of the company which I found fascinating. This was my first look into a larger organization that recently became a public owned company converting from state ownership 2 years ago. This group was dramatically different then any other I had met with so I was eager to see more.
We set off to visit a couple of the companies tea shops, which total 50 throughout China. I was introduced to the rare, exquisite yellow tea named Junshan, pronounced June Shan, which to date has been sold only within the Chinese domestic market. This rare yellow tea is exclusively grown and processed in Junshan. The elegant needles are as intriguing to watch as the soup is to drink. As the tea brews the perfectly sized needles stand at attention as they float at the top eventually sinking beautifully to the bottom. Really quite a show.
It was time for lunch and we enjoyed the traditional Hunan lunch invitation of sounding the drums. We filled up rather quickly due to our short schedule with unique and spicy regional dishes. Then it was off to the garden and factory and the senic ride getting there.
Once we arrived we had a short stroll through the gardens and then on to the factory. The factory grounds were impeccably manicured with a lovely statue of Lu Yu in the center courtyard. Pictures were not allowed in the factory and our tour was rather short. We got back on the road to take care of the real business at hand cupping the enormous variety of teas!
I spent several hours cupping, cataloging and selecting teas. I sampled a couple of teas that were new to me, which is why sampling is always the highlight of my day. Including the Junshan a couple of these teas may be available for the first time in the United States, in limited quantities, when we publish our new tea menu.
Once I finished it was time to have a quick dinner and back to the Changsha airport for the trip back to Nanjing. I arrived back to the hotel in Nanjing sometime after midnight exhausted from the day but elated that I was able to make the journey, no matter how short, to experience Hunan and the many teas it has to offer. Tomorrow we are on the road again to Changzhou an unexpected stop on our tour of China and Yixing and a new adventure I am sure!
Until next time, Beth
Sampling Teas all Afternoon.
Visiting the Tea Farm and Factory.
A Ceremonial Invitation to Lunch.
Exploring a Temple in the Old City Area.
Enjoying the Beauty of this Rare Yellow Tea.
Hunan Tea Company is housed on the oldest street in Changsha.