Today (Wednesday) we ate at a vegetarian Buddhist cafe. It was wonderful. I love vegetarian food and the food here was quite good. They had like a big buffet and so you could just eat and eat and eat, which I did. Got to try lots of yummy things, such a treat. First we hiked downtown and went to a temple built into a hillside and a market. I will try to go back there at some point. Great shooting opportunities, as I have come to call this the "hidden" area of Guilin. It's more off the beaten (tourist/well worn) path but oh so great for photographing and, frankly, just visiting. I have an extra day here so I will walk there probably on Thursday before I go back home. Great little spot, I could shoot there all day.
In more mundane news, I got on the VPN today and am charging Fitbit so I can keep track of my steps. Walking a lot on this trip, it feels good, although I also do get sore. Much better to walk a lot and eat healthy though. I wish I could do this every day instead of sitting at a desk but that's life sometimes. We have to take the fun stuff when we can get it, right?
Went to tea tasting today. It was wonderful. Our guide, Kevin (pictured here,) was fantastic. I said I was from Austin and he said, "Oh, the state capital!"
Somebody else replied, "No, that's Houston, isn't it?" Kevin was correct, of course, as Austin is the state capital for Texas.
Then, somebody else said they were from Philly and Kevin said, "Oh, that used to be the capital of the US. That's the first capital of the US!"
Somebody else said, "No, that's Washington DC," but, once again, Kevin was right. If you recall your history, Philly was in fact the first capital of the US, it was later moved to DC. Morale of this story is, if you want to know anything about US history, why, I'd ask Kevin, our Chinese tour guide from the tea place. He seems quite up on it and, sadly, we're not so much. I also learned a lot of tea facts from Kevin which I can share with you now. They knead tea almost like pizza dough. It grows on bushes (in case you did not know that, the shrubbery behind Kevin in the picture above is actually a tea bush) with little white and yellow flowers inside the bush. You actually have to move the leaves of the bush aside to see the flowers. At the place we visited, which is a state run facility, they have over 250 tea bush varieties and this can make over 1000's of teas.
The shoots of the bushes are white. If you make tea from the shoots only this becomes white tea or silver leaf tea. It is very expensive or the best type of tea really you can buy. If you make a shoot and one leaf into tea, it's green tea because the leaf will turn the tea green. If you make two leaves or more, it becomes black tea. Basically, the more leaves you add, the darker the tea gets. The shoot is the most pure part of the plant so it's why the white tea is the most sought after of the tea varieties. Oolong tea is semi-fermented. All black tea is fermented for a longer time. Oolong tea is fermented for a shorter time so this is why they call it semi-fermented.
I got to pick a tea leaf! Kevin gave us a hat and five minutes to pick a bush and find one stem and one leaf, basically to pick the makings of some green tea. I did it! Of course, it took me so long, when I presented my findings to Kevin, he said, "You have good quality but not quantity!" It takes about 96,000 leaves to make tea so I have only 95,999 more to go, right? Euf. On the plus side, I wore a hat and had my photo taken with it on so that may surface someday soon. It was an iPhone photo, how did we ever live without those cameras, I'll never know. The tea exploration was quite fun, I really enjoyed it. I would love to go back and just spend some time in that field as well as the gift shop which was fantastic as well. I bought some tea back for the office and for myself as I am such a tea drinker at home. I love the stuff.
Another note about the tea place is that it's all organic. They put up yellow paper, almost like fly paper, to catch bugs. Old leaves they let drop to become fertilizer. They use lights at night to attract bugs also. They smoke (fire) the weeds away. It's all very old school and also organic and healthy at the same time. No pesky chemicals and some really great tea to enjoy. We also went to a tasting ceremony which I'll talk about in a later post. More on this later but, for now, enjoy Kevin, my new friend and expert on both US capitals and, well, all things tea related. Hi there, Kevin! (*Waves*)
Until next time...