Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
cherimoya

Chinese Yixing Clay Tea Pots

Recommended Posts

I just succumbed to the hype and bought a purple clay tea pot. My tea still tastes the same :huh: Does anyone else use a purple clay tea pot?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you referring to a Yixing clay teapot?

There are a bunch of contributing factors to the flavor of tea, and the teapot plays a part, but the quality of the tea and the brewing technique are more important.

The advantages of Yixing ware are more about its ability to retain heat (compared to porcelain) than anything else, though some people praise the low shrinkage of the clay during firing. I like both tetsubin and yixing ware for the heat retention, and Hagi ware (from Japan) when it comes to glazed earthenware. Heat retention does affect the quality of brewing; for yixing ware, you will probably want to pour hot water into an empty pot to warm it up before actually infusing the tea.

If you have a small Yixing pot you may also be able to improve the aroma of your tea assuming you use a relatively high ratio of tea to water, and short infusions, but for the most part, the result can be accomplished with a small gaiwan, porcelain or otherwise.

The other perceived benefit comes from the long term "seasoning" of the pot as some molecules of tea are apparently absorbed into the very porous clay, but you wouldn't notice that immediately, whether it improves the taste or not.

The real benefit of having nice teaware is that good teaware improves your overall sensory experience. The visual appeal of the pot and your servingware has a real impact on your perception of the flavor of the tea, and on the sense memories triggered while you're drinking the tea.

This is part of the reason why Japanese food tastes better when presented carefully on attractive, appropriate tableware, and at the other extreme, why blind taste tests for Cola don't have much affect on sales; people's perception of flavor is affected by their visual experience, including brand visuals, and what memories and thoughts that triggers.


Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I just succumbed to the hype and bought a purple clay tea pot.  My tea still tastes the same  :huh: Does anyone else use a purple clay tea pot?

I own several Yixing pots (a few of them can be seen here My Tea Service) and I find that it more of a cultural attraction than anything else. The heat properties are supposed to be supperior however it more art in my mind. Will it make you tea taste better today, probably not, but it is said that if you brew ONLY the same type of tea in the pot it will develop a seasoning and character of it's own.

________

Mike Petro

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest


__________

Mike Petro

My hobby website:

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It takes some years for the seasoning to take place. One word of advice is to brew the same type of tea in a particular pot. Oolongs are usually recommended.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I own several Yixing pots (a few of them can be seen here My Tea Service) and I find that it more of a cultural attraction than anything else.

Mike Petro

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest

This is certainly an attraction---I've spent the last several hundred breaths admiring and reading. This is just the most beautiful thing I've see in many a long while.

Your corner is so smoooooth and contemplative, with all the green promise of soft breezes, the carefully-arranged utensils and the table's far-seeing landscape.

The use of breaths for measuring steeping time sets the stage for a quiet, relaxing moment or hour with a calming cup, and the description is soothing, before the first drop is poured. What is in the little stoppered cruet? And is there a little fish-companion in the vase?

I've never seen a more beautiful tea-tray---you seem to have harnessed a glossy wolf to hold your treasures and do your bidding. Amazing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What is in the little stoppered cruet?  And is there a little fish-companion in the vase?

I've never seen a more beautiful tea-tray---you seem to have harnessed a glossy wolf to hold your treasures and do your bidding.  Amazing.

Thanks for the kudos. The cruet is a good balsamic vinegar, not for tea but for snacks. Yes there is a Beta (Siamese Fighting Fish) in the vase. The plant and the fish form a sort of symbiotic relatonship. The waste from the fish is food for the plant, feed the fish regularly and the plant thrives too.

Cheers,


Edited by mikepetro (log)

__________

Mike Petro

My hobby website:

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I just succumbed to the hype and bought a purple clay tea pot.  My tea still tastes the same  :huh: Does anyone else use a purple clay tea pot?

I think you have it backwards - the tea enhances one's enjoyment of the fine pottery :wink: - but I love ceramics.

Seriously, it is the whole experience - kind of like a restaurant with good service and good food. I'm not compulsive about it or anything (I use a lot of tea bags) but using a nice tea pot or drinking out of the perfect (for you) mug is satisfying.

The Yixing teapots do age. A friend pointed out how a well used one had developed a softer surface sheen. This may well affect the flavor. Even glazed pots are said to get better as they develop a thick tea-stain. I think this would be more pronounced with an unglazed stoneware. So give it time and enjoy your teapot.


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, here is the pot in question, profile

http://www.flickr.com/photos/debunix/3806243025/

bottom stamp

http://www.flickr.com/photos/debunix/3807062878/

and the box that it was put in after I picked it off the shelf--no idea if this is the original pot or not

http://www.flickr.com/photos/debunix/3806246481/

I paid just $20 for it. It was one of the simplest designs available. And it makes wonderful tea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I know Wing Hop Fung. I have bought a few tea canisters on their website. Do they have more tea and tea-things in the store than on the site, as most b&m stores with a website do?

It is incredibly difficult to say whether a clay pot is actually made of any of the Yixing clays, especially without being able to see and touch it. There are a lot of fakes using other clays, and other good clays passed off as Yixing because they have the name and get a better price. But for $20, yours may well be an inexpensive Yixing, slip cast or made on a wheel, rather than half hand made using a mold (but even the latter is possible). I have several in that price range and they are perfectly suitable for brewing Chinese Oolongs and Pu-erhs. You would have to spend two or three times that much to do better.

So, what's the capacity of your pot?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, I know Wing Hop Fung. I have bought a few tea canisters on their website. Do they have more tea and tea-things in the store than on the site, as most b&m stores with a website do?

They have a tea tasting are with about 50 different teas in bulk, and that might be an underestimate, plus many tinned teas, pu-erh cakes in plain wraps and fancy packages, and a large selection of teaware--relatively few gaiwans in simple styles, quite inexpensive, and lots and lots of the small pots like mine, though most were more decorated, may fancier presentation sets and lots of japanese cast iron pots, and more. It is quite amazing.

And my little pot holds about 160 mL.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lot of clicks for what should be a simple job, but here is the pot in question:

gallery_16931_6727_23017.jpg

gallery_16931_6727_26641.jpg

gallery_16931_6727_13641.jpg

The box--again, not sure if that is specific to this pot or not--says in english 'association of ceramic arts masters' and 'traditional family of ceramic arts'.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am loving the little pot just posted above, and understand that traditionally these are kept one per type of tea.

To what level of detail do most of you try to go with that--

would the same teapot for green and white teas be stretching it too far?

what about green/white vs yellow teas?

and should the light Taiwain oolong we just tasted be ok in the same pot as some basic anxi ti kuan yin?

green tea with green tea with jasmine?

Just curious.

And then, how do you keep track of which pot is which?

I can easily see keeping track of 'plain pot with dots on the spout' is for oolong, 'decorated pot with dragon on side' is for pu-erh, but beyond that, they might need to be labelled or a photo key posted inside a cabinet to keep track of them.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am loving the little pot just posted above, and understand that traditionally these are kept one per type of tea.

To what level of detail do most of you try to go with that--

I have enough Yixing pots and other brewing vessels to divide things up quite a bit, but I think the basic divisions for Yixings are one each for shu,  young sheng and aged sheng; one for Oolongs ( you could have two - one for lighter and one for darker); one for red teas. While there are all sorts f theories about matching clay and pot shape to a particular category of tea, I have found that it's a matter of trying different teas in a pot to see what one shows the most improvement over brewing it in a gaiwan. The more you brew, the clearer and fuzzier all this gets. Of course, many people would say just get one for pu-erh and one for Oolong and be done with it. And that's not unreasonable either.

would the same teapot for green and white teas be stretching it too far?

what about green/white vs yellow teas?

In general, it's better not to brew green teas in a Yixing, because if you accidentally over-brew the tea will become bitter and that's what will be absorbed into the clay. Better to use a gaiwan or your glass teapot. There are Yixings that are okay with white teas, but not many and I don't know how to identify one that would work; I rely on tea pot merchants I trust for that kind of advice. For all three I would stick to a gaiwan or a glass pot.

and should the light Taiwain oolong we just tasted be ok in the same pot as some basic anxi ti kuan yin?

I think so. I had been thinking about trying it in a Yixing that I have dedicated to greener TGYs.

green tea with green tea with jasmine?

Again - gaiwan or glass pot. I suspect the jasmine will cling to any clay.

Just curious.

And then, how do you keep track of which pot is which?

I can easily see keeping track of 'plain pot with dots on the spout' is for oolong, 'decorated pot with dragon on side' is for pu-erh, but beyond that, they might need to be labelled or a photo key posted inside a cabinet to keep track of them.

A photo posted is a clever idea. I may do that, but so far I have placed a little card next to each pot. This really has been helpful only for those I don't use regularly. And things can get confusing anyway, because I continue to try new teas on old pots to see if there is a better match. In fact, I found a better match for Dan Congs just the other day, in the form of a Yixing that I had been using for sheng pu-erh.

I also wanted to mention that you did well selecting a simple shape Yixing. The fancier ones are interesting but typically made of the lower grade Yixing clays. The complex designs are more likely to break by the time they come out of the kiln and potters do not want to sacrifice the scarce quality clays that are valued for tea making. The fancy designs are usually meant for display, although any number of tea merchants sell them anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

good point about the bitterness of green teas and unglazed pots--I was pretty sure that would be the answer for the jasmine, but not about the greens in general.

For work I will stick to my glass pot(s), as simplest and most practical.

But may play with some more simple yixings for pus and oolongs at home. It will add some fun to my next trip to the tea shop.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm in London for a conference and stumbled upon a shop called Dao in the Greenwich Market with a lovely selection of Chinese teaware, particularly gaiwan and Yixing teapots (they play a bit off the connection between the Cutty Sark, which is just around the corner, and the history of the English tea trade with China). I was actually planning to come back to New York with a proper English teapot, but I didn't know when I'd again see such a nice selection of Yixing ware, so I bought a Yixing teapot, which I think I'll dedicate to oolongs. I only brought a film camera with me, so I can't post a photo at the moment, but I'll make some digital photos when I get back to New York.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

gallery_64820_6661_390214.jpg

Here's my new yixing pot, about 300ml. The owner of the shop explained that they generally came in four basic colors, and this color is fired at a higher temperature than some of the other clays. The text, she said, is the Heart Sutra.

gallery_64820_6661_335171.jpg

The inside perforated where the spout attaches.

gallery_64820_6661_49095.jpg

Here is the maker's stamp on the inside of the lid, also showing the airhole in the lid.

gallery_64820_6661_57837.jpg

And this is the maker's stamp on the bottom of the pot.

The shop had a selection of around 40 or 50 yixing pots and tea sets with matching cups on display in various designs, colors, and sizes as well as other Chinese teaware. They don't have a full website yet, but you can find their contact information at http://www.daolondon.co.uk/


Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, the recommendation from the shop was first to fill it with boiling water and to pour boiling water over it, letting it sit for about a half hour, and to do this three times. Then to season they recommended to brew three pots of strong tea of the type to be dedicated to that pot using enough tea that the leaves would fill the pot, each time letting the pot sit until cool, and generally not cleaning the pot with a brush or with soap either during seasoning or afterward. I've done that using the Imperial Gold China Oolong from McNulty's in Manhattan, and I've made a few pots of the same tea in it since, and I've been very pleased with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Richard,

You mentioned in a post on this thread that there are a lot of fake Yixing pots made from clays passed of as Yixing and to buy your Yixing pot from a source you trust.

Can you recommend a few sources for Yixing pots?

I have already checked out the pots at Tea Source since I was on their site reading about the tea you had today. Are they a reliable source for pots as well as tea?

TIA,

Diane

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Richard,You mentioned in a post on this thread that there are a lot of fake Yixing pots made from clays passed of as Yixing and to buy your Yixing pot from a source you trust. Can you recommend a few sources for Yixing pots? I have already checked out the pots at Tea Source since I was on their site reading about the tea you had today. Are they a reliable source for pots as well as tea?TIA,Diane

And if I can add to that, what is a reasonable price to expect to pay for a real Yi Xing pot?

I have not bought a Yixing from Tea Source, but would not be interested in those I see on their site. The clays do not look good for brewing tea to me. This is not just Tea Source - few tea merchants know much of anything about Yixing pots and often feature the more decorative ones because they are cool looking and people are more attracted to them than the simple, plain looking traditional ones. One problem is that the decorative ones are much, much more likely to be made of lower grade clay because many designs require a lot of clay and the breakage rate on these fancy ones can be high. Potters don't want to sacrifice their good clays this way. So it's best to think of the artistic ones as display pieces.

Buying a Yixing without seeing and touching it in person is tricky. You can buy a useable Yixing teapot for as little as $12 plus shipping. This is modern Zisha clay of good enough quality to brew tea. If you are brewing gong fu cha for one or two people, I suggest one of about 90 - 100 ml as optimal, but no larger than 150 ml, which could serve as many as four people. Simple, traditional styles. No cute decoration. There is good reasons for not spending more than, say, $50 on your first two or three Yixings. It's a learning experience and we all pay some dues. Those dues are cheaper at $12 - $50 than at several hundred.

I have had the good fortune to see in person hundreds of Yixing tea pots of awful ($4) to good to very good quality since one of the largest importers of Yixings is here in Dallas. Robert Bo at Chinese Teapot Gallery on eBay. There is not anything in his eBay store I can recommend right now, but he should have a lot more stock in later this year or early next year. Don't consider anything in his store less than $12 and only traditional, simple styles. No appliqué, no open work. When you see something you like in the store, just email him and tell him you want a Yixing for brewing tea, not as a decoration, and ask if it has good clay for brewing. Ask for alternate suggestions in the 90 - 150 ml range.

Scott Wilson at Yunnan Sourcing on eBay is another tea merchant I can recommend for inexpensive Yixings in the $12 - $50 range. Again, simple styles in the 90 - 150 ml range. People almost always start larger and end up later with smaller (100 ml or less) pots. Scott is not a Yixing expert and the clays used in the pots he has listed may or may not be accurate, but regardless they are good clays and his prices are fair.

Older Yixings made of better clays that are "extinct" (no longer mined) usually start in the hundreds of dollars, go into the many thousands and are another subject entirely. And are not a reasonable place for most people to start.

All this said, my strong suggestion these days, which I am sure is usually ignored because of some intrinsic appeal of Yixing tea pots, is to forget about Yixings for now and learn to brew Chinese teas with a gaiwan. Spend time learning what teas you like in this neutral vessel that will not appreciably change, impact, improve or negatively alter the aroma and taste of the teas. I didn't do that, of course, but Robert Bo and I probably spent a weeks worth of hours over several months, squatting on the floor of his shop looking through hundreds of pots as he gave me my basic Yixing education. But today, I often try a new tea in a gaiwan before brewing it in a Yixing.

Gaiwan first. Yixing later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      A few days ago, I was given a lovely gift. A big jar of preserved lemons.
       
      I know Moroccan preserved lemons, but had never met Chinese ones. In fact, apart from in the south, in many parts of China it isn't that easy to find lemons, at all.
       
      These are apparently a speciality of the southern Zhuang minority of Wuming County near Nanning. The Zhuang people are the largest ethnic minority in China and most live in Guangxi. These preserved lemons feature in their diet and are usually eaten with congee (rice porridge). Lemon Duck is a local speciality and they are also served with fish. They can be served as a relish, too. They are related to the Vietnamese Chanh muối.
       
      I'm told that these particular lemons have been soaking in salt and lemon juice for eleven years!
       

       

       
      So, of course, you want to know what they taste like. Incredibly lemony. Concentrated lemonness. Sour, but not unpleasantly so. Also a sort of smoky flavour.
       
      The following was provided by my dear friend 马芬洲 (Ma Fen Zhou) who is herself Zhuang. It is posted with her permission.
       
      How to Make Zhuang Preserved Lemons
      By 马芬洲
       
      Zhuang preserved lemons is a kind of common food for the southern Zhuang ethnic minority who live around Nanning Prefecture of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China. The Zhuang people like to make it as a relish for eating with congee or congee with corn powder. This relish is a mixture of chopped preserved lemons, red chilli and garlic or ginger slice in soy sauce and peanut oil or sesame oil.
       

       
      Sometimes the Zhuang people use preserved lemons as an ingredient in cooking. The most famous Zhuang food in Guangxi is Lemon Duck, which is a common home cooked dish in Wuming County, which belongs to Nanning Prefecture.
       
      The following steps show you how to make Zhuang preserved lemons.
       
      Step 1 Shopping
      Buy some green lemons.
       
      Step 2 Cleaning
      Wash green lemons.
       
      Step 3 Sunning
      Leave green lemons under the sunshine till it gets dry.
       
      Step 4 Salting
      If you salt 5kg green lemons, mix 0.25kg salt with green lemons. Keep the salted green lemons in a transparent jar. The jar must be well sealed. Leave the jar under the sunshine till the salted green lemons turn yellow. For example, leave it on the balcony. Maybe it will take months to wait for those salted green lemons to turn yellow. Later, get the jar of salted yellow lemons back. Unseal the jar. Then cover 1kg salt over the salted yellow lemons. Seal well the jar again.
       
      Step 5 Preserving
      Keep the sealed jar of salted yellow lemons at least 3 years. And the colour of salted yellow lemons will turn brown day by day. It can be dark brown later. The longer you keep preserved lemons, the better taste it is. If you eat it earlier than 2 years, it will taste bitter. After 3 years, it can be unsealed. Please use clean chopsticks to pick it. Don’t use oily chopsticks, or the oil will make preserved lemons go bad. Remember to seal the jar well after picking preserved lemons every time.
       
    • By liuzhou
      Perhaps the food-related question I get asked most through my blog is “What's it like for vegetarians and vegans in China. The same question came up recently on another thread, so I put this together. Hope it's useful. It would also, be great to hear other people's experience and solutions.
       
      For the sake of typing convenience I’m going to conflate 'vegetarians and vegan' into just 'vegetarian' except where strictly relevant.
       
      First a declaration of non-interest. I am very carnivorous, but I have known vegetarians who have passed through China, some staying only a few weeks, others staying for years. Being vegetarian in China is a complicated issue. In some ways, China is probably one of the best countries in which to be vegetarian. In other ways, it is one of the worst.
       
      I spent a couple of years in Gorbachev-era Russia and saw the empty supermarkets and markets. I saw people line up for hours to buy a bit of bread.. So, when I first came to China, I kind of expected the same. Instead, the first market I visited astounded me. The place was piled high with food, including around 30 different types of tofu, countless varieties of steamed buns and flat breads and scores of different vegetables, both fresh and preserved, most of which I didn't recognise. And so cheap I could hardly convert into any western currency. If you are able to self-cater then China is heaven for vegetarians. For short term visitors dependent on restaurants or street food, the story is very different.
       
      Despite the perception of a Buddhist tradition (not that strong, actually), very few Chinese are vegetarian and many just do not understand the concept. Explaining in a restaurant that you don't eat meat is no guarantee that you won't be served meat.
       
      Meat is seen in China as a status symbol. If you are rich, you eat more meat.And everyone knows all foreigners are rich, so of course they eat meat! Meat eating is very much on the rise as China gets more rich - even to the extent of worrying many economists, food scientists etc. who fear the demand is pushing up prices and is environmentally dangerous. But that's another issue. Obesity is also more and more of a problem.
      Banquet meals as served in large hotels and banquet dedicated restaurants will typically have a lot more meat dishes than a smaller family restaurant. Also the amount of meat in any dish will be greater in the banquet style places.
       
      Traditional Chinese cooking is/was very vegetable orientated. I still see my neighbours come home from the market with their catch of greenery every morning. However, whereas meat wasn't the central component of dinner, it was used almost as a condiment or seasoning. Your stir fried tofu dish may come with a scattering of ground pork on top, for example. This will not usually be mentioned on the menu.
      Simple stir fried vegetables are often cooked in lard (pig fat) to 'improve' the flavour.
       
      Another problem is that the Chinese word for meat (肉), when used on its own refers to pork. Other meats are specified, eg (beef) is 牛肉, literally cattle meat. What this means is that when you say you don't eat meat, they often think you mean you don't eat pork (something they do understand from the Chinese Muslim community), so they rush off to the kitchen and cook you up some stir fried chicken! I've actually heard a waitress saying to someone that chicken isn't meat. Also, few Chinese wait staff or cooks seem to know that ham is pig meat. I have also had a waitress argue ferociously with me that the unasked for ham in a dish of egg fried rice wasn't meat.
       
      Also, Chinese restaurant dishes are often given have really flowery, poetic names which tell you nothing of the contents. Chinese speakers have to ask. One dish on my local restaurant menu reads “Maternal Grandmother's Fluttering Fragrance.” It is, of course, spicy pork ribs!
      Away from the tourist places, where you probably don't want to be eating anyway, very few restaurants will have translations of any sort. Even the best places' translations will be indecipherable. I have been in restaurants where they have supplied an “English menu”, but if I didn't know Chinese would have been unable to order anything. It was gibberish.
       
      To go back to Buddhism and Taoism, it is a mistake to assume that genuine followers of either (or more usually a mix of the two) are necessarily vegetarian. Many Chinese Buddhists are not. In fact, the Dalai Lama states in his autobiography that he is not vegetarian. It would be very difficult to survive in Tibet on a vegetarian diet.
       
      There are vegetarian restaurants in many places (although the ones around where I am never seem to last more than six months). In the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai they are more easily findable.
       
      Curiously, many of these restaurants make a point of emulating meat dishes. The menu reads like any meat using restaurant, but the “meat” is made from vegetable substitutes (often wheat gluten or konjac based).
       
      To be continued
    • By liuzhou
      I have just returned home after four days (three nights) in Guilin. This was a business trip, so no exotic tales this time. Just food. Anyway, despite its reputation, Guilin is actually a rather dull city for the most part - anything interesting lies outside the city in the surrounding countryside.
       
      I was staying in the far east of the city away from the rip-off tourist hotels and restaurants and spent my time with local people eating in normal restaurants.
       
      I arrived in Wednesday just in time for lunch.
       
      LUNCH WEDNESDAY
       
      We started with the obligatory oil tea.
       

      Oil Tea
       

      Omelette with Chinese Chives
       

      Stir-fried Mixed Vegetables
       

      Sour Beef with Pickled Chillies
       

      Cakes*
       

      Morning Glory / Water Spinach**
       
      * I asked what the cakes were but they got rather coy when it came to details. It seems these are unique to this restaurant.
       
      ** The Chinese name is 空心菜 kōng xīn cài, which literally means 'empty heart vegetable', describing the hollow stems.
       
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      Introduction
       
      I spent the weekend in western Hunan reuniting with 36 people I worked with for two years starting 20 years ago. All but one, 龙丽花 lóng lì huā, I hadn’t seen for 17 years.  I last saw her ten years ago. One other, 舒晶 shū jīng, with whom I have kept constant contact but not actually seen, helped me organise the visit in secret. No one else knew I was coming. In fact, I had told Long Lihua that I couldn’t come. Most didn’t even know I am still in China.
       
      I arrived at my local station around 00:20 in order to catch the 1:00 train northwards travelling overnight to Hunan, with an advertised arrival time of 9:15 am. Shu Jing was to meet me.
       
      When I arrived at the station, armed with my sleeper ticket, I found that the train was running 5 hours late! Station staff advised that I change my ticket for a different train, which I did. The problem was that there were no sleeper tickets available on the new train. All I could get was a seat. I had no choice, really. They refunded the difference and gave me my new ticket.
       
       

       

       
      The second train was only 1½ hours late, then I had a miserable night, unable to sleep and very uncomfortable. Somehow the train managed to make up for the late start and we arrived on time. I was met as planned and we hopped into a taxi to the hotel where I was to stay and where the reunion was to take place.
       
      They had set up a reception desk in the hotel lobby and around half of the people I had come to see were there. When I walked in there was this moment of confusion, stunned silence, then the friend I had lied to about not coming ran towards me and threw herself into my arms with tears running down her face and across her smile. It was the best welcome I’ve ever had. Then the others also welcomed me less physically, but no less warmly. They were around 20 years old when I met them; now they are verging on, or already are, 40, though few of them look it. Long Lihua is the one on the far right.
       

       
      Throughout the morning people arrived in trickles as their trains or buses got in from all over China. One woman had come all the way from the USA. We sat around chatting, reminiscing and eating water melon until finally it was time for lunch.
       

       
      Lunch we had in the hotel dining room. By that time, the group had swelled to enough to require three banqueting tables.
       
      Western Hunan, known as 湘西 xiāng xī, where I was and where I lived for two years - twenty years ago, is a wild mountainous area full of rivers. It was one of the last areas “liberated” by Mao’s communists and was largely lawless until relatively recently. It has spectacular scenery.
       
      Hunan is known for its spicy food, but Xiangxi is the hottest. I always know when I am back in Hunan. I just look out the train window and see every flat surface covered in chilis drying in the sun. Station platforms, school playgrounds, the main road from the village to the nearest town are all strewn with chillis.
       

       

       
      The people there consider Sichuan to be full of chilli wimps. I love it. When I left Hunan I missed the food so much. So I was looking forward to this. It did not disappoint.
       
      So Saturday lunch in next post.
    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and lead us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known  for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...