Although it was my third visit to Wuyishan – my previous visits being in 2007 and 2009 – the latest one was particularly educational because of the cross-section of international tea community and local tea expertise present. Among the luminaries were Michael Bunston, Chairman of the International Tea Committee; Louise Roberrge, President of the Canadian Tea Association; William Goreman, President of the UK Tea Council; Barbara Dufrene of Paris; and Prof. Yang Jiang Fan, President of Wuyishan University. The CFNA – Tea Sub-Committee of the China Chamber of Commerce – organized this trip in the wake of their fourth biannual conference in Hangzhou, the first of which was held in 2005. On October 25-26, 2011, we were shown Da Hong Pao – rock tea production and its culture.
On our own, we met Mr. Jiang Yuanxun in his office and tasted Jin Jun Mei – a tea said to have been perfected by him seven years ago on his plantation in Tongmu Village in Wuyishan, a national natural reserve. Lo and behold, this tea is perhaps the closest to Darjeeling and is made out of tea buds plucked especially for this tea during the best flushing periods. Later, someone very knowledgeable compared Dong Fang Mei Ren – the tea from Taiwan that is referred to as “Oriental Beauty” in the west – with Jin Jun Mei and Darjeeling. I am carrying these high-standard samples back to India to taste them using my local water to which I am used. My palate will be put to the test and I will ask for feedback from my fellow Darjeeling planters.
During my discussions with many tea experts in China, I found that Jin Jun Mei – a limited-edition tea – is sold at a very high price, Dong Fang Mei Ren comes second, and Darjeeling goes for a song. There are reasons behind that – the presentations and the will to not to sell cheap. Wuyishan has perfected a one-hour, open air show to promote their teas, which involves extreme lighting and impresses even high-tech professionals because of the skill and coordination of the performers.
This trip has strengthened my desire to perfect the art of Darjeeling tea within our own tea culture and our related shows. Dan Robertson is preparing a theme presentation for our next India Tea Forum to be held on December 17-18, 2011 in Siliguri. We hope to get a large gathering of Indian as well as international tea community participants for this Indian Tea Board, Indian Tea Association, and Confederation Of Indian Industries (CII) co-sponsored event.
October 26 was our biggest festival – Diwali – and Louise Roberrge, President of the Canadian Tea Association, was so sweet to cheer us three Indians in the delegation on at the dinner table. This brings me closer still to Wuyishan, which I am beginning to consider my second home.