Friday, March 26, 2010

Seven Stars Green Tea in Guilin, home of South Chinas most picture-perfect scenery

While travelling with my friends in Guangxi province, southwest China, I was in the small backpacker-mecca of Yangshuo, nestled on the side of the Li River, in Guilin county, home to some of most well known scenery in all of Asia. Along the river, huge limestone karst peaks jut up into the air, giving the landscape a surreal beauty. The surrounding area is home to many of Chinas ethnic minorities, people who have a very distinct culture, lifestyle and language compared to the majority Han Chinese, who compose 90% of the population. Some of these minorities include the Zhuang people, Chinas largest minority and the Yao, famous for the womens really long hair. The town of Yangshuo, which is largely comprised of traditional white-washed houses, has become a backpackers paradise in recent years, with the main street, Xi Jie (west street) coming to refer more to the fact that is is full of westerners than that it is on the west of town. But several minutes of cycling will take you away from the western cafes, bars and hostels and into pristine countryside, where rice paddies and buffalos dominate, with the huge karsts jutting up randomly.

One evening I was walking along the street and I noticed a small teashop, called Seven Stars, so I decided to take a look and was invited by the owner, Annie Zhou, to sit down and try the local tea, Cuiyu, which is grown by her family in the nearby countryside. It had a distinct chestnutty taste with a clear green colour and the leaves were coated in small white furs. Her brothers plantation was opened in 2000, when he realised that as living standards were higher, people could afford to drink high quality tea. The plantation now covers 40 hectares of mountainside nearby Jiaobalin, a small village outside of town.

Annie can organise tours of the nearby area, including the tea plantations and she will often perform the tea ceremony for visitors, where you can sample many different teas in a relaxed atmosphere.

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