Yunnan Cha

For a moment they hang in space, motionless, innate as a piece of dust floating through the dark vastness of the galaxy. Then, ever so slowly, the rigid tentacle of a leaf begins to slowly, laboriously extend itself, as if the jasmine flower has been curled up in the deepest slumber and is only now awaking. Soon the previously dry hard balls of Jasmine tea are in full bloom once again – the innate piece of space dust is now exploding in the creation of a whole solar system.

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The Chinese province of Yunnan is justifiably famous for its tea. Its mountainous highlands produce some of the finest “cha” in the world. It is so much a part of the culture that it is taken for granted – every home has at least a few different kinds, and it is served instead of water in most restaurants. There are no qualms whatsoever, among the Chinese, that China is the birthplace of tea, that any place that has adopted the practice has learned it, through one route or another, from China. Yunnan is even recognized as the homeland of tea, the people here cultivating the first domestic tea tree over two thousand years ago, according to some histories.

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Yunnan produces many kinds of tea, including green tea (lu cha), red tea (hong cha), flower tea (hua cha), and the region’s specialty, pu’er tea, which is a kind of red tea. While the green tea is left unprocessed, the red, or sometimes called black tea in English is fermented to various degrees, depending on the type.

Above you see the Jasmine tea, or mo li hua cha, that I just bought from one of the plentiful selection of shops all around Kunming. It is a cross between a green tea and a flower tea, and is one of the most famous around the world.

And of course the Pu’er black tea that I got at a little shop down by Green Lake Park the other day. Brewing the stuff is an art form, it is such a delicate tea. This is the kind of tea that  has been fermented, and had a bit of smoky flavor. (I hope the Japanese style cup that I bought on the street doesn’t wreck the whole effect…)

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Does it live up to its reputation? (sip) Yeah, that’s good stuff.

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