My guide stands in front of the hotel precisely on time to go to a tea restaurant. It is wonderful to see how tea is interwoven into life here. Tea: to drink, to use in cooking, even for ceremonies. In short, it is incorporated into everything.
It is Saturday and thus the restaurant is full of families who are enjoying meals together. We eat a huge pile of vegetables and noodles. Driver is pushing me hard to eat more. I ask my guide why she does that. Driver has a clear opinion about my figure, I am much too thin. She has set a goal to get me up to a goal weight in a week’s time. She keeps pinching me in my arms. Too thin and no muscles, she says. Ha ha. There we go again. We have a delicious dinner. Mixed in with the noodles is a kind of oil that is made from the pressed seeds of the tea shrub, it is flavourful and frequently used here.
Everywhere we walk in this area I smell flowers and I wonder where that comes from. I look around me and see it: The little flowers of the Osmanthus fill the streets with this amazing scent. They pluck these flowers and dry them together with Oolong tea so that the tea has Osmanthus flavor. I ask if they have this at the restaurant and they go right to work. I taste it and although I don’t like flowers in my tea, this is truly delicious! I need to consider adding this tea to the assortment but then naturally with a direct trade address. I ask at the restaurant where they get the tea and the flowers. She points to outside. I look and yes, there they have a tea shrubs and trees full of flowers against the mountains next to the restaurant. Ha ha. Seek and you shall find, sometimes closer than you expect! A minute later I walk between the tea bushes and there, on the sides, are large Osmanthus trees.
When we are done with our meal, we walk up a mountain, where a tea farmer I’d like to meet is located. This farmer wins many prizes and although that is here truly something, I am always primarily interested in tasting. An unassuming woman is waiting for us. The fields are spread in this area because they have different smaller plantations. The first harvests of the country are in and already dried. I get a tour of the mini factory. With pride they show me how they pluck and process tea in fifty-year-old baskets. These braided bamboo baskets have been in the family for years. This little company breathes tradition and the love of tea. They manage the whole process, from plucking to processing and packaging. We are invited to sit at the tea table and taste the new harvest. This modest woman can prepare remarkably beautiful and delicious tea and I am amazed. The small factory where we sit is only slightly lit and we are sitting on small stools. The space smells of tea and is now filled with a fresh, green fragrance from the new harvest that comes into contact with the water. I taste, and take notes. The lady shows photographs from the different plantations that they own and they all look beautiful. After a tasting and a short tour I decide to buy some tea from her and test this in the Netherlands. After extensive thanks and saying farewell we walk back to the car. Hidden beautiful tea places abound here. When you find them, it is truly worth the trouble.