čtvrtek 17. května 2012

A visit of the Huilong village, September 2011

The Huilong village (Hui Long Zhai, 回龙寨) is renowned for its excellent green tea of the same name, huilong. The village lies in the Yunnan province, Dehong prefecture, county Lianghe, being governed by Dachang village, a center for surrounding villages (weekly markets are held there too). 

People of the Achang minority ( 阿昌族) selling their surplus crops:

The Achang women usually wear high hats and large silver earrings:

We have visited the place in half of September 2011, during the fall harvest. Huilong has the altitude of some 1500 meters above sea, the peak being in the altitude of 1650 meters above sea. 

The place is rich in red ground, not the volcanic ground, as is often incorrectly declared (Volcano green tea, etc.). This error in ground classification has its roots probably in volcanic activity of near Tengchhong ( 腾冲 ). People of Han majority live in Huilong, but the not too numerous Achang minority ( 阿昌族) is present in the surrounding villages too.

Some images of the Huilong village:

The original Huilong tae comes from a small area around the village, from tea trees planted around 1920-1930, the original old big leaf  varietal of yunnan tea tree, brought here from Simao. The trees have been planted from seeds, not cuttings. Therefore, only tea from near the village and from original tea trees (which are quite strong and robust, with thick trunks) may be considered to be the original Huilong. The tea is rather expensive, we offered certainly genuine Huilong from the fall harvest of 2011. Best quality harvests happen at the break of March and April, fall harvests come after that. Fall harvest is about 10% cheaper than the spring harvest, but is of the same quality. In high sorts of the tea, only one leaf and a tips is harvested, but two or three leaves with a tips are more frequent. Local tea producers themselves drink the tea with larger ratio of leaves to tips as the tea is stronger and may be steeped more times.

Photos of the original tea trees:

What other tea is to be found around? The surrounding villages produce tea to (e.g., the area around Dachang). These teas come from from a more recent cultivar: the clone "Yunkang 10 Hao" - teas produced from it are much cheaper. The material from the original trees is sometimes blended with the Yunkang 10 Hao. Fortunately, local producers (at least those visited by us) were very honest and distinguish  various green teas based on the kind of tea trees they originate from.

Yunkang 10 Hao bush in Dachang:

Two kinds of green tea are produced in the Huilong village. One is processed in wok in the usual way, while the other, rare, is baked in the wok using much higher temperaturre and the process is shorter. The leaves plump and are hollow inside. I myself prefer the normal version of their green tea though.

It is often said that Huilong is handmade, etc. In the village, there are four families still having classical woks for green tea processing. However, the need for using them is very low, occasionally, small-scale requests appear and the cost of such tea is double of normal price. 95% of the tea is processed in modern drum rotated above fire.

Tea production:
Traditional wok, seldom used these days:


This drum rotated by an engine is used instead of wok:

Fire is lit under the drum which rotates quickly. Tea is thrown into the drum from one side:

On the other side, it falls to a bamboo basket and the process is repeated several times:

I am very glad we could visit the place, get to know the maker producing tea for the fifth generation and, most importantly, have a look how this tea is created. The Kunming market is full of "huilong" tea, but many of these remain only distantly similar (in looks and taste) to the tea of Huilong village.

2 komentáře:

  1. Those are some of the most beautiful tea leaves I have seen. Is there a cake made from those large leaves?

  2. Hi Emmett!

    I asked Honza about it and he says that no - that somewhere around Huilong, cakes are being made, but in Huilong, it is easier to sell the material as green tea as it is famous.