In April this year, during the northern hemispheres spring tea season, we ventured on our tea pilgrimage, to the primeval mountains of Guizhou, China. Our host, translator, sister in tea and founder of Grass People Tree in the UK, Rui was born in this untouched mountainous region of China, and is a local tea celebrity of sorts- as we found out later. Thanks to her incredible knowledge of this region, its people, and history we have discovered teas almost inaccessible in the western world. The entire journey was a cultural experience that will stay with us forever.
The Tea Master’s family teas – which were enjoyed by the emperors of China throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties, and the aristocrats and royals in 18th century Great Britain – are made in the very same way today as they have been for over 400 years. We were first brought to The Masters Teahouse in the centre of Guyang city, the morning of our second day, to meet the local tea gurus and experience Master Lin's skill first hand.
The first tea we experienced was what seemed to be a stale pot of green tea-quite over-brewed. Despite being steeped for more than 50 minutes, it was strong, intensely floral, but still refreshing, with an almost minty aftertaste. We were so impressed with this tea and soon were treated to a gong fu session of the exact same green tea using 100c water and we were completely blown away. A green tea that never goes bitter? How is this possible?
The next day we followed the Rui into the mountains in Southwest Guizhou to discover what it takes to craft a brew that doesn’t bitter.
Rui explains- "it begins with a 5 leaf pick. We treat the leaves as arms, and the stem as the body, keep them as a whole and let the sun flow into its blood. This is the only way you can taste the sun through tea, and the only reason you can taste it is because the tea hasn’t stopped breathing since it was found and picked. Quite simply, to make tea is to acknowledge and respect the fact that nature does most for us. Practice patience, and learn its language when it speaks to you. The rest is easy"
The leaves are dried and fermented in the sun, turned gently by hand. There are no machine processes involved. It usually takes 28 – 45 days to make a batch of tea. Through their long practice, the Master’s family has recognised and respected the natural goodness and living energy of fresh, wild tea leaves. The secret to their craft is in keeping the energy of the leaves active throughout the whole tea-making process. Such a task – in contrast to the modern industrial way of quick-drying huge quantities of leaves at high temperatures – demands time and dedication. Carefully watching, smelling and touching the leaves as they dry in indirect sunlight over 20-28 days, the Master expertly judges whether or not the leaves have enjoyed enough sun. Mountain weather is, of course, famously unpredictable, so each small batch of leaves requires his constant attention.
This slow, careful sun-drying allows the leaves’ circulation to remain healthy and active long after they’re made into tea. The process requires immeasurable skill, but is immensely rewarding. No matter how its brewed, The Master’s tea simply doesn’t get bitter. Stored correctly, it’ll slowly change in colour and flavour and remain alive for years – just like the Master’s tea legacy itself.
Our Collection of Master Lin's Living teas will be available in July. If you want to experience these teas see our EVENTS page for tastings or check our instagram @casadecha_tea or facebook @casadecha_au for more details.