Monday, October 6, 2008

Wuyi Shan Oct. 1st

On my second day At Wuyishan, I just felt rotten, had digestive issues and was dizzy and weak.  I think it was the shellfish I ate at the restaurant the night before, but it could have been drinking too much tea.  I got some antibiotics, and some Chinese medicine.  I felt a lot better by the third day, but the second day was not productive.  I did drink some tea, but not much.  Especially in the morning I just swished it around in my mouth and then spit it out.  In the spring, when the new tea is finished, the producers and buyers usually taste the tea this way, rinsing it around in the mouth and then spitting it out.

My friend was trying to find a nice tea for cheap, as Yancha is not very popular in Southern Zhejiang province.  He thought that his customers would not be able to accept a more expensive Yancha, and was looking to get a nice tea for 50-150 RMB/kilo.  I was interested in getting a good tea for myself, and interested in buying small quantities if even if the price was high.  I did traipse around the area with him trying all the garbage teas, looking at carvings, both stone and wood, looking at tea packaging and other tea products.  Since I did not do much tea drinking on the 1st, I will introduce some of Wuyi's other products.  One of the most interesting things I found was the Wuyi bingcha pictured above.  I was really surprised to see these all over the city in tea shops.  I had never heard of Yancha being pressed into a cake, but here they were.  As soon as I got back, Hobbes posted about this on Half-dipper, and people commenting on his post left links on where to buy the stuff as well as links to posts on   The prices were about 11USD for a small bing of about 150 grams.  I thought it was really expensive.  I offered a bunch of store keepers 20RMB, but they didn't sell.  I asked one proprietor when Wuyi started making these tea cakes, and he said they had always made them, but they had been for the farmers personal use in the past.  I also noticed that many of the cakes were covered in plastic wrap.  Wuyi tea is supposed to be kept sealed up pretty tight, while Pu'er is supposed to have access to a certain amount of air.  I wonder if these tea cakes age well, and how they ought to be kept for best results.

Another famous specialty of Wuyi mountain is Shoushan shi(寿山石 - longevity mountain stone)which is a beautiful orange red and white stone, and one of the four most famous stones in China. They sell lots of poor quality carvings in many stores all over Wuyi, and also many beautiful pieces of art.  If you want to buy shoushanshi, look around.  they have lots of decently priced items, as well as overpriced ones.  Most pieces are covered in oil to protect them, which attracts small insects which in turn get stuck in the oil.  Corax got a chop made (see the link to his post on Chadao two posts ago) at 乐宝齐寿山石总店 (tel 0599.525.2542) which I was also able to find, unfortunately it was closed by the time I got there.

Snake products are ubiquitous in Wuyi.  They have a snake garden somewhere nearby, which supposedly hold tens of thousands of snakes.  These snakes are used to make delicacies such as snake meat and snake gall wine and snake wine and snake oil and snake face cream.  Almost every store in Wuyi has a snake product section.  I really meant to get some snake wine, as it is sort of legendary in China.  
I suppose it is silly, but it certainly would impress my male friends back in the states if all I drank from now on was liquor that had snake corpses floating in it.  Snakes are also killed in the thousands for their penises.  I am not just making a crude joke, every store in the resort area has a couple of boxes. 
 They sell for the bargain rate of 20 RMB/box of five.  I never actually saw anyone buy any.  I didn't either, and I probably wouldn't admit it here if I had.  They are supposed to improve sexual prowess in males.  

The last thing I wanted to mention is a set of postcards which I bought.  I went into a painter's shop in a side street.  He was from Chongqing and painted almost exclusively landscape paintings from Wuyi Mountain. He was a good painter, but his style was a little bit round and coarse for me, so I didn't buy any of his paintings. 
 He did have a great set of postcards of scenery from Wuyi mountain, which were a bargain at 12 yuan.  They were issued by the post office, so they are quite a bargain as half the price of the set is postage.

The painter's name is Jiang Guanmin (蒋关民.)He also showed us a great fold out painting of the scenery of all nine bends in the local Jiuqu xi (九曲溪 - nine bends stream) that was several meters long.  

I would suggest these postcards as an interesting alternative to regular postcards, and which also supports a local artist (who moved there from Chongqing.)

I slept most of the afternoon of October first in order to get over my sickness and prepare for another tea drinking marathon.  October first is Chinese National Day for those of you who don't know.  Be sure never to go anywhere in China on national day, especially not tourist destinations such as Wuyi.  I had a vacation during this time, and so I decided to risk it and go anyway.  All of the tourist destinations are packed, there are lines for everything.  All the locals are trying to cheat as many people as they can.  All the restaurants are busy and will ignore you if they have to get a high profit dinner ready for a huge tourist group.  If you do go during the Chinese holiday season, I would suggest you go with a tour group.  

I thought maybe the vacation would not affect the tea people, but it does.  Everyone is busy on the holidays.  Lots of the tea people are in their shops hawking their lowest quality goods to tourists who will pay big bucks for a fancy looking box of tea with the characters Dahongpao written on it.  Also many of their old customers may only have time to come by during the vacation, and they will be keeping these people company.

If you go on the off season it is much easier to convince the tea dealers that you came for the tea and are not just a tourist.  They will have more time to sit down with you and just chat.  When an area is as full of tea shops as this place is, a lot of these people are bored much of the year, and if you go at the right time they are friendly, helpful and happy to have the company of someone who loves tea even if you don't buy anything.  Most importantly, many tea producers don't even keep their best teas in the shops.  If you go during the off season, they have plenty of time to take you to the tea factory and see the tea gardens, and try all the better teas.

It will also help if you do some tea research before you go.  It is good to find respected names on the Internet, find their numbers and just give them a call.  When you do this, they will know you came for tea and it is a much better method than walking into random shops in the resort area and hoping they are tea producers.

1 comment:

yumcha said...

thank you for such an entertaining read and the helpful hints.
I'm so jealous... I'd drink a glass of dead snake wine for a chance to visit the WuYi mountains.