TaiPing townTea travels: AnHui - TaiPing (2012)
Tea travels are a key part of our efforts to find the best teas direct from the source. Every journey enriches our knowledge and understanding as well as giving us the opportunity to really feel where our teas come from. To experience and saviour the natural environment, to meet and talk with farmers and tea lovers as well as just getting a better understanding of the complex and diverse world of tea.
Wan Ling and the team are all big TaiPing HouKui lovers, as such we thought this would be a focus for this years AnHui tea trip. Our trip combined heading to SheXian and TaiPing with a visit to see Huang Mei (see our Team page for more details on HuangMei) who has just given birth to twins!
We travelled out from Shanghai on the high speed train to HeiFei, before visiting HuangMei and her family. Twins are certainly a handful. Mother and babies were all very well and very healthy even if Mum was a little tired.
Next stop, SheXian. Taking the traditional train, we coast through the varied landscapes of AnHui. A mix of untouched countryside, small villages and the startling, sometimes stark concrete landscapes of modern China all presented from the conform of the train.
For those that have never been on Chinese train, these are a cost effective way to reach a huge part of China. Options include standing, hard seats, soft seats and a number of classes of sleeper. Trains are also a superb way to meet a varied mix of people. Plus for tea lovers, there is free boiling water all the time!
SheXian county has a long history that dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221 - 208 BCE). SheXian county falls under the administration of HuangShan City. SheXian's location lends itself well to being a focal point for the MaoFeng tea trade. Every morning during harvest, farmers, brokers and buyers descend on the market. By 10-11am the hustle has died down and just a few people are left selling the last of their teas or enjoying some food at the many stalls. The market offers extra services such as storage, baking/drying facilities and areas to blend the separate batches of tea that are often combined to meet the needs of larger buyers.
Travelling out from SheXian, we speed along the new highway in our mini 'bread van', a small mini bus cum van which are very popular throughout China. The huge investment in infrastructure by the Chinese in the last 20+ years means getting to many tea producing regions is now a case of hours, not days.
TaiPing and TaiPing lake are now popular tourist spots for those visiting HuangShan 'Yellow Mountains', named an UNESCO world heritage site in 1990. The region is characterised by beautiful mountains and lush, green valleys. Why not visit our TaiPing - HuangShan photo gallery from the visit to get a better feel of the region.
Visiting one of the villages in the region we shown how the TaiPing HouKui we have offered in previous years was made. Although in Chinese this is referred to 半手工 or partly handmade, the effort involved is still incredible. One family of 4-6 people will only produce a few kg a day. Considering the harvest season is so short, sometimes only a month, with less than this available to make tea. This means tea can not be relied on as the sole income.
As explored in our Green Tea Types guide, there are three primary styles of TaiPing HouKui. The 'single' stem and 'double' stem, part handmade and the handmade. For 2012 we have selected the TaiPing HouKui handmade style for our green tea range this year. As mentioned, above the volume produced is so low, not surprisingly when you think each stem - bud is hand twisted.
Our 2012 tea travels were over far too quick, however we extended our network of tea friends are very happy with the MaoFeng and the TaiPing HouKui for this years range. We hope you love them too. As ever, if you have feedback, comments or questions we are always here and are very happy to hear from you. Why not visit our Facebook page, add a comment or share this page? Don't have Facebook, please contact us.
Interested to know where all the regions mentioned here are? Wan Ling Tea House has begun to plot some of the key regions on Google maps. Click here: TaiPing town