We started off the morning not too early driving through Guilin to the governments Tea Research Institue where they grow tea, showed us how it is picked and dried, had a very informative lesson in the proper etiquette of the tea ceremony in China, and of course, the showroom where we could buy the tea we had been drinking.
Disclaimer: today's blog (like most of the others) is written by Wendy, an inveterate tea drinker from almost the day she was born!
It was well-done, ranging from the fields where no fewer than six varieties of tea bushes were planted to the showroom. Most tea comes from one or two kinds of plants. The tea is separated into white, green (3 or 4 quality levels), yellow, oolong, and black. White tea is just the very young leaf -- the "needle" -- and as such, is very expensive. Green tea, the most popular has the needle and one leaf (highest quality) up to 4 leaves plus the needle (lowest quality). Black tea is the very large leaves which are fermented for abou 12-16 hours. The largest leaves are dropped on the ground to become fertilizer for the plants.
The tea, after being picked in the fields very early in the morning (only because it is so hot outside) is sorted by hand to get all the above levels of tea, then rolled to get some of the oils out, the dried for about 2-5 minutes in a basket over hot coals,being moved all the time. It is then air-dried further for a number of hours.
Onto the tea ceremony. We were seated around a table with a many small tea pots, some made of clay, others porcelin, and also a glass one. White tea should be poured and served from a glass container, green and Compressed tea which is a very popular blend, should be poured from clay pots which are somewhat like cast iron in that they should not be washed with soap and over time, take on the taste of the tea. Hence, one kind of tea to a pot.
There is a pretty strict etiquette which I won't go into--which finger to put where (men are different than women), and how to sip (slurping is the best way to get the full flavor). Each tea has a different degree of hot water--some boiling, some even hotter, how long to steep, and one important thing, is that the first pot is the "washing of the tea", and thrown out, not to be drunk. Each half scoop of tea should last anywhere from 3-10 times.
We tried about 4 different varieties including the green tea with osmanthus flowers (the city flower of Guilin). Onto the showroom where we helped to support the local economy.
We had lunch in downtown Guilin at a local restaurant, then onto the airport to get through customs. Since we were leaving the "official" part of China and going to Hong Kong which is designated "SAR" (Special Administrative Region-- "one government, two systems", or freedom vs. communism) we were left to our own devices and said goodbye to Hubert who has promised to keep in touch. Since he sent us over 17 emails highlighting different aspects of our trip already, I have no doubt he will.
Dragon Air flight was OK, and it was with a welcome sigh of both happiness and regret that we left China to arrive at the land of wonderful clean restrooms, an orderly British-based system, and hopefully, some great new options for food. Except for breakfast at our hotel (another Shangri-la, Kowloon), we are on our own for meals in Hong Kong.
A lot of time was wasted today, and we all wished that we had more time in HK. We didn't get to the hotel until after 7 pm, throwing our suitcases down, and finding a good place for dinner. We ended up at Spasso's, a lovely Italian restaurant down the street from our hotel, where we had pizza and a burger, respectively along with a very lovely glass of wine.
Into bed, to figure out what parts of the Island Tour we will particpate in tomorrow.