In Search of the Perfect Cup of Tea

In Search of the Perfect Cup of Tea

Savoring China’s divine drink at its source.

By Lisa See

We are deep in the tea mountains of Xishuangbanna Prefecture in China’s Yunnan Province. Villages inhabited by the Dai, Bulang, Lahu, Akha, and other ethnic minorities lie across ravines or peek out from the forest. Glancing up a hillside, I spot people perched in the uppermost branches of some tea trees.

Our driver pulls over, four of us climb out of the car, and then we hike up a narrow path to reach the workers. The women wear scarves—some handwoven, some embroidered, and some decorated with silver balls and other trinkets. The men’s faces are cragged and as dark as saddle leather from lifetimes spent in the sun. We pepper them with questions: How old are these tea trees? How many generations has your family worked as tea pickers? Do you process your own tea? These folks don’t seem too surprised to see us or to hear our questions. It’s tea-picking season in Yunnan’s tea mountains, and over the past few years more and more visitors, including myself, have come in search of Pu’erh tea—the most valuable and collected of all the world’s teas—and to explore the birthplace of tea. Read the full piece at National Geographic.

This piece is by Lisa See, author of previous Book of the Month The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. To see more of our Books of the Month, click here.

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