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of the Lazy Literatus

Month: April 2020

Heralding the Rose of Wuyi

This is Dan.

Image owned by the Purvises.

Dan’s a pretty solid dude, and a darn good friend. Dan is also married to my matcha dealer.

Again . . . owned by the Purvises

Dan’s a lucky sonuva- . . .

I’m getting off-topic already, aren’t I?

Let’s start over.

Tea Love in the Time of COVID

Strange times we’re living in, huh?

The Fairhope Tea Plantation

As I’ve said many times, it often takes a mere photograph to grab my attention, and to remind me of something I’ve neglected. For instace, this one.

Image owned by One Man’s Tea Journey

This was posted in August by blogger compatriot (and all-around great guy) Eric of One Man’s Tea Journey.  In the spring of 2019, he paid a visit to two US-based tea gardens—one in Alabama and one in Mississippi—and recorded the experience for posterity. I have no good excuse for this; somehow this article slipped my notice. His photographic reminder, however, didn’t. I voiced my envy.

His unexpected response to my textual salivation was to . . . send me two teas grown in Alabama. (Pretty sure he was already aware that I had sampled the heck out of the Mississippi tea garden.) That was not a response I had expected, nor was it one I was too gracious to refuse. Although, I did offer to send something in return, and that offer still stands; just so we’re clear.

The Fairhope Tea Plantation is located (obviously) in Fairhope, Alabama. Quick’n dirty version: the garden was founded in 1979 from the remnants of an old Lipton test plot. From three plants that survived a haphazard bonfire, horticulturalist Donnie Barrett started a tea garden that would later expand to 61,000 plants of various cultivars. He experimented with making his own tea in 1984 after a visit to China, and pretty much had to learn everything from scratch.

If you want to read the plantation’s full story, go HERE.

The Age of Honey Orchid

If there’s one kind of oolong that has the most fantastical origin story, it’s Dan Cong. A name that translates as “single bush or tree”. The story of this tea has its roots in the last days of the Southern Song dynasty. Around 1279 C.E., Zhao Bing (or Song Di Bing)—the final child emperor—had fled from Mongols with his entourage to the Fenghuang (Phoenix Mountain) region of, what is now, Guangdong Province.

 

As legend has it, the local tea farmers fed the young emperor tea leaves as he wandered the countryside. These bushes were a hybrid off-shoot of Shui Xian, a known cultivated [likely] hailing from Wuyi Shan, all the way to the northeast. Allegedly, leaves revitalized the young emperor, staving off his exhaustion from the exile. Alas, the Mongols eventually did catch up to him, and he—and his guardian—jumped off a cliff.

Afterwards, the tea trees in the region—that hadn’t been delineated as cultivar specific—took on a new name; Song Zhong, further emphasizing its connection to the late Southern Song emperor. Hundreds of years after that, further refinement of tea processing in the region occurred. Aside from growing Song Zhong from seed, Fenghuang farmers also developed cultivated varieties based upon difference leaf fragrances. By isolating these, they bred from grafts to further duplicate those aromatic profiles.

In the late 1700s, Dan Cong was officially listed as an imperial tribute tea, and the Fenghuang region its forebears. If it wasn’t from the Phoenix Mountain, it wasn’t Dan Cong. To this day, that’s still the case. As to how many “fragrance cultivar” sub-categories there are? I . . . have no idea. But there’s one I see more than any other, probably because it’s the most ubiquitous.

Mi Lan Xiang (“Honey Orchid Fragrance”) Dan Cong.

Why I Talk About Indian Teas . . . A Lot

There’s a question I always get from fellow tea heads, and it’s one that has increased in frequency over the last couple of years: “So, what’s the deal with Indian teas?” Or some permutation of that. I’m not sure when it happened, but I became known (peripherally) in a few tea circles as the “Indian tea guy”. Which is weird considering . . . I’m nowhere close to being Indian. I’ve never even been to the country.

However, one thing I’ve noticed over the last ten years, amidst my muscatel-fueled echo chamber, people gravitated more prominently to Taiwanese oolongs, Wuyi oolongs, or—more infamously—to puerh collectorship. And yet, while I flirted with all types of tea, I always returned to my Himalayan palatial home. What’s funny is, I’ve never fully addressed why.

But then something triggered me to finally to so. Or rather, some drink.

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