It’s the start of China's Qingming festival, and like thousands of locals Henry & I are escaping the hum of fast-developing Chengdu as we make for the cool heights of Emei Mountain, 峨眉山.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the fabled Emeishan is one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China. Rich in ancient temples and history the lower levels of the mountain thrum with domestic tourism. The higher you climb the crowds quickly disappear and the only sign of life is small communities of farmers living in scattered villages. These communities all tend the only crop allowed to be farmed on the closely protected mountain - tea.
The slow and winding drive up the mountain reveals looming rock face, deep ravines, lush forest and wild tea gardens as far as we could see. Our eyes are glued to our surrounds. As we climb the temperature drops, the moisture in the air thickens and a misty sheen adds to the already mystical feel of the place. Thanks wholly to Henry's fluency in Mandarin, we are welcomed to a traditional Chinese guest house perched 2,000m up the mountain. We are the only tourists for miles, and the only Westerners to ever have stayed in the guesthouse. We can’t wait to spend a tranquil weekend living amongst this community of tea farmers, exploring the heights and drinking in the natural wealth of the mountain.
On arriving at our guest house we are quietly awed by the elegance of the traditional design, and building materials all of deep brown and red wood. The rooms are centred on a beautiful courtyard, complete with calligraphy table, erhu (harp-like musical instrument) and stone troughs of still water with glowing orange gold fish. Our bedrooms each have small living areas, where traditional Gong fu tea tables take pride of place. On the search for detox from modernity, and a deeper understanding of traditional Chinese tea culture, we could not have found a more perfect place.
Hand-picked and steamed green tea from the humid plains of central Sichuan. Whilst the tradition of steaming green is more usually associated with green teas produced in Japan, the steaming process actually originates in China. The steaming process enhances the fresh grassy flavours of the succulent tea leaves.