It was a small village, probably the smallest I had seen yet. I had gone out the next day to the same area of Nine Dragon Waterfall, but this time I kept going deeper into the country. My bunkmate said he couldn’t come because he had laundry to do. I think we realized the day before we were not good travel companions. I walked through some vegetable fields toward the houses. I couldn’t tell if any one was even there then one man emerged into view. I would later find out that he was coming out of the bathroom, something we would laugh about in a way only guys do.
Each of us sat on stools with another stool in the middle covered in tea glasses. Upon arrival he had given me a tin of Qimen red tea as “a gift for new friends”. I in return gave him a tin of Dian Tuo white tea. We tried all of them, including his Mao Feng and his chrysanthemum which is a another product of the region. We discussed the flavor of each one, and what we liked or didn’t like. As we chatted his young son walked around us playing with his toys. He must have been about three and was more out going them most of the kids I met here. Most kids at that age just kind of stared at me for a while. This kid though was much more interested in us doing things. He showed me his toys, gave me cookies, and drove his foot powered car around in circles waiting for me to look over.
I was relieved to find his Mao Feng was truly savory. It is sometimes hard to taste teas in the region because they often just use their tap water, which isn’t very clean. In the Dong Ting I am pretty sure I literally drank tea with water from the surrounding lake, making it thicker and covered up the smaller notes. That being said for the good teas something always shines through. In this case I was relieved to find a strong umami refreshingness that seemed to fill the back of the mouth. The smell was clean with no hints of smoky. This was finally a good tea.
We weren’t able to talk much about the tea because he had to pick his other child up from school and I had to get back to my hostel. He was able though to show me videos of him making the tea, using the classic kill the green machined used for Mao Feng. He told me that all of his tea was made by hand. We agreed that next year I would come earlier, spend some time at his house and he would show me his field and how he makes tea. The last thing he did was present me with a piece of calligraphy made by his teacher. We took some photos and parted ways.
Back at the hostel my bunkmate was surprised to see a giant bag in my hand. He asked if I went back to Qimen. I explained that I had not, and instead went back and found Huang Shan Mao Feng. He then quoted Mao “With a steady heart, nothing is hard.”
“Things are hard” I said in reply “Just not impossible.”