Tea Stories

Here is a story of one of the teas I brought back – to give you a taste of my tea adventures and what goes into sourcing teas!

‘Da Jin Ya’ Hongcha – Big Golden Bud black tea, Feng Qing, Yunnan, China, Teaninja’s Pozible Adventure, April 2013

It’s funny how a whim can lead to a grand adventure. My desire to travel off-the-beaten-track to Feng Qing in Yunnan was simply based on having tasted a delicious Feng Qing black tea and deciding ‘I want to go see how they make this!’ In a province overwhelmingly focused on (and famous for) pu’erh tea, this little bastion of black tea production quite intrigued me.

I arrive at the station, drop my bags at a hotel and head to a nearby teashop. It turns out to stock the famous Dian Hong brand. Dian Hong shop FengQingDian is a short name for Yunnan and Hong means red (which is what the Chinese call what we refer to as black tea). “I’m here to learn about your tea” I announce in my best broken Chinese. The sales staff steer me to shelves lined with boxes of rather stale looking tea. “No, no – I’ve come from Australia to learn about Feng Qing black tea” I insist. “Where can I see it being made?”

Used to quick sales with unsuspecting tourists, they look a little puzzled at my request. They sit me down and brew some tea. Eventually they suggest I can go and see this in their tea factory on the outskirts of town. I jump in a taxi and am ecstatic to be on my way to see the tea production so soon after arriving. ‘How easy! How good am I getting at this?’ I thought somewhat smugly.


smDian Hong tea factory, Feng QingThe taxi driver dropped me off and I strode up to the factory gate with a spring in my step. I beamed at the guard on duty ‘Ni Hao!’..until he flatly refused me entry. ‘But, but – I’ve come all the way from Australia, and travelled many days to reach here..’ My pleading fell on deaf ears. I didn’t have authority to enter and that was that. Apparently they couldn’t risk me stealing their secret recipes and set up my own ginormous tea factory in competition. Yep. My cover as a secret tea spy blown.

Rather despondently I trudged down the driveway. The taxi had long gone and it would be a good hour or so walk along the highway back to the hotel. But it was a lovely day so I decided to go for a walk in the countryside instead.

I followed a narrow road that climbed the hill behind the tea factory and then rounded a corner to find..

sm FQ tea hillsHillsides of tea gardens! I could hardly believe my luck! I wandered the gardens for hours, basking in the warm sun and clean air – happy to just be amongst tea plants growing. After weeks sitting on buses or at tea tables inhaling side-streams of cigarette smoke, this was a very welcome respite.

Here’s a video after I’ve discovered these beautiful tea fields!

Discovering Feng Qing’s black tea fields, Yunnan, China from Teasense by Sarah Cowell on Vimeo.

sm FQ TeapickerOn my way back down I come across women picking tea.  One stops to show me the freshly plucked leaves. In an odd-ball exchange in the video below she asks me where I’m from and I (brain-fried from the weeks of Mandarin) respond with ‘uh go down hill to see tea making.. what time?’ So she looks a little puzzled at the end.

I like that you can hear the beautiful birdsong and get a sense of how peaceful it was in the tea gardens.

Chatting to tea pickers Feng Qing tea gardens, Yunnan, China from Teasense by Sarah Cowell on Vimeo.

It turns out she is taking it to a smaller local factory & I ask permission to follow her back to the factory see it being processed. She agrees.

Come follow along behind the tea-pickers to their factory in this short video!

Following pickers back to the tea factory, Feng Qing Yunnan, China from Teasense by Sarah Cowell on Vimeo.


Soon we arrive at the factory where the pickers weigh in how much tea they have collected. photo(2)They kindly show me the remarkably spotless equipment and explain the process of making the black tea – in Chinese. Moments like these I wish I was more fluent.

In this video below we see the black tea before final drying – and then move to inspect a sack of fully dried black tea. At the beginning I’m asking why the black tea is not very dry – was it for oxidation purposes? I didn’t quite understand his answer. Then we walk over to a sack of the finished, fully dried tea and I’m marveling at how wonderfully fragrant it is!

Hong cha from Teasense by Sarah Cowell on Vimeo.

And this is how the lovely black tea found it’s way from the hillsides of Feng Qing in remote Yunnan, China – into your teapot! Hope you enjoy drinking it as much as I enjoyed discovering it 🙂

To top off the great experience the factory owner then invites me to join them for dinner. I really love the Chinese sense of hospitality – and delicious country cooking.