The Chinese village of Xiamen is for Da Hong Pao tea what Gouda is for Gouda cheese. Here are the deeply deep-seated roots of this fragrant oolong tea. Da Hong Pao has been distributed throughout China for 26 generations via the river that flows through this hamlet. Today I can take a peek at this centuries-old place of pilgrimage for tea enthusiasts to see how Da Hong Pao is made. It is a wondrous spectacle. I wish you could walk with me through the small streets. Then you would see that time has never touched the village. Xiamen looks like a carefully stylized decor for a dreamy movie. Beautiful antique woodcarving is everywhere you look. On front doors, on the walls of homes. Like a museum. I am in love.
And then there is that amazing fragrance of fresh Da Hong Pao that flows through the streets. There is absolutely no way to describe how fantastic it smells here. I get chills running down my spine from pleasure, so amazing. My guide, who takes me in tow, is accustomed to this divine scent. Today she shows me one of the town’s many tea factories. With the word factory you probably have a picture of a sterile environment with modern equipment and bright fluorescent lights. Not in Xiamen. Here they process the tea just as they have done for hundreds of years. They hardly know automation here. Almost everything in Xiamen is done by hand.
A bit further in the village I meet an old lady of at least eighty. Countless tea leaves lie on the sorting table in front of her. With the serenity of a cloistered monk she inspects them one at a time. I am overcome by her dedication. We made eye contact for a second and she beckons me closer. With gestures the woman tried to explain how you could differentiate between good and lesser Da Hong Pao leaves. She asked if I would assist her. Of course! As a reward for my efforts I receive a farm-fresh Da Hong Pao right from the tea machine. What a flavour sensation. I want to tell the old woman how truly delicious I find it. Only I don’t speak a word of Chinese. It doesn’t matter. This tea tastes so good, you can’t describe it anyway.