We’d had such a lovely Lóng jǐng adventure in Hangzhou, we decided to try again whilst in Shàoxīng. We knew that there was tea around. We’d seen tea farms whilst on buses doing some day trips around the outskirts of the town. We’d seen pictures of vast tea fields on ads. We’d heard that Shàoxīng is where ‘Gunpowder Green’ tea comes from – made famous by Twinings in Western countries many years ago. So, we started asking questions. Many people looked at us blankly. Some said just head to the tea area and start asking around. Hmm… what to do? We got online and found some phone numbers. Zac braved the Zhèjiāng accent and we eventually found someone who said we could come and have a look at their company!
As you’ve probably noticed, our previous tea adventures have been very rural. We’ve met the farmers, we’ve dined with families and we’ve got to the roots of the production. This time was different. We found the big sign announcing the factory, and a lovely little girl met us at the front gate. We sat in her office and sampled some of the new products for the year. Their new green tea was quite robust and delicious, and totally different to the lóng jǐng we’d had a few days earlier. The company is a collaboration with Japan, so they make a lot green tea powder for ice-creams and snacks. They also provide the green tea powder for a delicious new iced tea on the market. It has absolutely no sugar in it, yum!
We then moved into the lab for our tea-tasting! Have a taste in a lab is a completely different experience. The tea is weighed precisely, the timer is set for brewing and there is much less consideration for the temperature of the water!
We tried 4 distinct teas (left to right):
- Mocha: ‘Matcha’ tea – the Japanese green tea powder. This is sieved and then whisked in hot water with a bamboo “brush”
- Pingshui yinzhu: The fresh one that we tried as we came in
- Houji cha: Looks/smells like coffee! It’s the tea that is used for iced tea and it’s quite low in caffeine (babies apparently drink it in Japan!)
- Genmai: Green tea mixed with roasted rice. We tried a couple of combinations, and decided: the more rice, the better!
Note the weighing scales and feather duster. New tea-tasting equipment for me!
After the tasting session, we went for a wander through the tea fields. The factory has 10,000 acres of tea bushes and produces 300 tonnes of tea per year. 80% is picked industrially and the rest is hand-picked for their high quality loose-leaf teas.
You could see which tea bushes had been mechanically picked as they had a rounded shape. We walked past a beautiful blue reservoir, crossed a very thin stone bridge and sweated our pores out!!
You can see the difference between the machine-picked and hand-picked bushes.
Matcha leaves must be covered for the last part before the harvest to maintain the deep green colour
Photos courtesy of Zac.