‘Tea masters’ keep traditional brewing alive in commercializing China

China 24

'Tea masters' keep traditional brewing alive in commercializing China

China is working to keep its long-standing traditions and cultural heritage alive through preservation and conservation efforts.

In this edition of “The Big Picture,”

CGTN’s Han Bin went to southeastern China to see how people are trying to reverse these modern trends back to ways-of-old.

Wuyi Rock Tea grows on cliffs and valleys of Wuyi Mountain. The mountain is a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site. The tea leaves require a tranquil environment with loess soil, and consistent humidity and temperature.

Tea has its own set of environmental factors, or terroir, much like wine. Leaf selection is the first determinant of quality. When the leaves mature, it’s the busiest season on a plantation.

Even with the best leaves, making fine tea is impossible without the skills of tea masters. There are several key procedures, like bruising. The shaking and then rubbing are to bruise the surface of the leaves to release the tea’s juice and enhance oxidation.

To expand the production scale, the Huang family took on young apprentices. The family has been brewing tea for 12 generations.

Everything is done by hand to preserve the ways of their ancestors. Tea Master Huang Shengliang said making a high quality tea requires extreme patience. It’s like a dialogue between man and nature, but a feeling that is beyond words.

At a time when machines are replacing human workers, many traditions are disappearing. But Huang believes there’s something man should hold on to, and that’s what the true value of Wuyi Rock tea is all about. Aside from being a beverage, tea is used to connect people. The Huang family is willing to share with everyone who’s interested.

Huang Shengliang is trying different ways to keep traditional tea brewing alive. The family has a tea cellar, which Huang built many years ago. He’s taken much inspiration from the wine industry.

Tea is preserved in boxes, with the production date, weather and master’s name written on it. He doesn’t know how far he can take it, but he wants to do something different. His biggest worry is the environment. He hopes more will be done to protect the ecosystem, whose balance provides the incomparable fragrance of nature.

For thousands of years, tea has held an important place in China. It’s an essential part of China’s cultural identity, both as a heritage and a modern-day business. On Wuyi Mountain, great efforts are made to preserve those teas, processed by hand in the traditional way. 

For Huang Shengliang, the whole process of tea making is like placing a hand on history and its deep culture. He said the more he lives with tea, the more he loves it and the mountains that nurture it.