She has never been able to smuggle a foreigner into the forbidden Jin Jun Mei tea area. Still, my guide is willing to take the chance to get me in today. I am making a tea trip in China and about to experience how Jin Jun Mei tea is made. Top secret. The authorities jealously refuse entry for non-Chinese to the area. They are deathly afraid that their preciously preserved process will fall into the hands of malicious competition in foreign countries. Jin Jun Mei is a very special tea that only grows here: golden and with a flavour like honey. The Chinese prefer to keep something like this exclusive.
You can only enter and leave passing a border post where rough customs officers with machine guns are keeping tight control of everything. I wonder how we could every get by without being seen. My guide has a plan. “you look a bit like a Chinese,” she decides. “Do your hair like a Chinese woman, wear sunglasses and look out the car window. No speaking! We will get in.” A particularly shaky strategy if you ask me! Still, I agree. I want to go in! And you probably only get this kind of chance once in your life. It makes a difference that the guide’s aunt has a house in the forbidden tea area. She is in on the conspiracy today and rides with us. We are thus so-called “visiting her house” if the border security asks any tricky questions.
Okay, we are really going to do this. I arrange my Chinese “hairdo” and put my sunglasses on. I look stoically out the window, but inside the tension is screaming from every fibre of my body. What if we fail miserably? I know that in China they chop off your hand for stealing a bike. What kind of brutal treatment awaits us if we get caught? What gritty cell will we end up in? I try to think of it as little as possible.
The Jacket tactic
We approach the border and my guide suddenly unsure of her plan. Shit! Panic. “Quick! You hide under jacket” she commands.
Before I knew it, I was lying on the back seat underneath an enormous yellow ski jacket, awaiting my destiny. I stay completely still while we drive at a crawl by the border control. This adventure can go either way. It can be an unforgettable story for home or I can be in the news tomorrow “Dutch ‘tea girl’ incarcerated after illegal entry attempt.” Luckily the guide’s dubious jacket technique worked like a charm. We are in!
I feel like cheering from relief but still have to keep a low profile so as not to stick out. I am still not allowed to speak out loud. Not even in her aunt’s house. To recover from our adventure we silently drink farm-fresh Jin Jun Mei. So delicious, there aren’t any words for it anyway.