Changxing, 23 April 2019
After a high-speed train ride from Shanghai, we arrive in Changxing, a well-maintained city with gingko trees and beautiful flower arrangements along its main avenues and crocodiles in the city canals. The wealth created by the surrounding tea industries is visible. Our hotel is beautiful and located in the heart of Changxing´s old town, next to a river lined by willows. Lili, our host, invites us to a lavish lunch. It is the occasion for me to taste a massive amount of delicacies, which range from chicken feet to fish, as well as a local waxberry juice produced in the area. We are then brought to the headquarters of Lili´s tea company; the tea packing room being converted into a large tasting room for our visit. We are also welcomed by a local TV station crew who wanted to film the curiosity of “waiguoren” (i.e. foreigners) drinking tea.
Lili sitting at the head of the table surrounded by the participants of the tea tour.
We get to start with a Golden Zi Sun tea, whose leaves become bright yellow as they soak in our glasses. Although this is a very precious tea, Lili portrays it as our “base” tea that we can sip in between other teas. The next hours are a succession of teas, including a High Mountain Zisun, an Anji Bai Cha, and a kumquat filled with black tea. Lili also made us taste a very special tea processed just like noodles by shortly putting the green leaves in boiling water. What we then called “noodle tea” had the appearance of water but developed a subtle and light orchid aroma in the mouth. Lili´s Zisun black tea was also a very pleasant find. Lili also allowed us to enter her refrigeration rooms where she stores the green teas and showed us the best techniques to avoid moisture in the tea storage bags.
The "noodle" tea, whose leaves were washed in boiling water to prevent oxidation. The tea is available only in very limited amount; only a few of us were able to get a small bag of it.
Lili's assistant carefully steeping green tea in a Song Dynasty-inspired carafe.
Lili speaks about her company to some fellow travellers.
Mathias enjoying a glass of Golden Zi Sun, Max dealing with a black-tea-filled kumquat, and myself in the background of a carafe of Bai Cha.
Steeping the cha bing in a gaiwan and in a teapot. Lili and Benjamin.
After another lavish dinner, Gabriele surprises us with an unexpected evening program. We have the chance to meet the son of the nephew of Jiang Rong, arguably the most prominent Yixing teapot master of last century. Many of Jiang Rong´s teapots are to be found in museums all over the globe and feature astronomical prices. The son of the nephew presents us many of his aunt´s pieces and shows us the process and tools to make the teapots. The tools themselves are pieces of art and are unique to each teapot maker family. They also help the family to uncover forgeries. The wealth of the family is obvious, the nephew sporting a Cartier watch entirely covered by diamonds on his wrist. A few of us buy teapots made by the son of the nephew, which could turn out to be a good investment given the family´s legacy.
Teapots exposed in Jiang Rong's family studio. These pots have been crafted by scholars of the family and therefore are more affordable than those made by Mrs. Jiang's nephew and his son.
Jiang Rong is famous for her naturalistic style; most of her teapots are inspired by natural elements, like this cup made by her nephew and resembling a tree trunk.
The nephew's son shows us the tool used by his aunt to carve the teapots and how they allow them to recognise fake and real pots of the famous artist. The tools have been inherited by him and his father and are still in used by them.
This teapot was made by the nephew's son based on his own design. It is made of four different clays, which explains the brighter dots on its body. It is one of a kind, as the artist later tried to reproduce the same dotted effect without succeeding.
Guzhu, 24 April 2019
In the morning, we visit the famous Luyu Memorial, a tribute to Tang dynasty tea. The drizzle gives a mystic and peaceful feel to the complex that is surrounded by misty bamboo forest hills. The memorial explains how, back in the Tang Dynasty, Guzhu Zi Sun was churned and pressed into small cakes (‘cha bing’) that were used as a tribute to the Emperor. After our visit, we get to eat at a local village restaurant that was unique due to the fact that it was using robots to serve its dishes. In the afternoon, Lili invites us to visit one of her friends´ tea processing factory, which is an opportunity for the group to learn about the different steps needed to produce both green and black tea. The smell in the factory hall is truly delicious. Our craving for tea makes us organize a tea party until late in the evening on the terrace of our bungalow at the eco-chic hotel-resort, in the middle of tea fields.
In the bus on the way to Luyu Memorial; the entrance of the memorial and our group walking down the stairs after having visited the Luyu statue on the top of the tower.
Visit to a factory producing green and black tea.
Guzhu, 25 April 2019
We start the day with a tea picking lesson from Lili! She shows us how to pick the bud and one leaf gently, without damaging the stem. A few leaves later, we are chauffeured back to Changxing for a farewell lunch with Lili featuring excellent seafood. Lili´s hospitality has been incredible, and even more so as she took some time off from the busy tea-making season to accompany us.
The group ready for picking; Lili explains how to pick "one leave and one bud".
Johannes and Torben in the tea field; Max lost-in-translation with a farmer.
Lavish goodbye lunch. We give our presents to Lili.
Written by Caroline, participant of the Nannuoshan Tea Tour 2019