Part of the fun of being a tea cloud apprentice in Yunnan is meeting those in the business of buying and selling tea. Hangin’ out at Xiongda Tea Market in Kunming is always an instructive lesson in drinking and watching how different tea traders do business, what teas they specialize in, and how they prepare and make tea for their customers.
I’m fascinated by the personalities of each tea trader. The teas that I have sampled—fermented and unfermented Pu’er, black teas, green teas–all taste really good, but what really matters is that you feel good the moment you walk into a tea shop.
One of my favourite tea people at Xiongda is a women in her mid-thirties called Yan. She just loves what she does, and she’s genuinely interested in making people happy. And you can’t help but fall in love with her. She has mastered the basics of how to make tea, but continues to focus on the more refine aspects of the tea-making process –the temperature of the water, quantity of tea, the brewing time in a teapot or covered bowl, and so on. She uses a digital kettle which brings the tea to just the right temperature, and a digital scale to measure tea.
She’s very precise and alert to all the stages of making tea, cutting the process in pieces (the origin of the word ‘detail’ from Old French means precisely that: ‘to cut in pieces’) and making sure it’s done right. And if it’s not, figuring out how it can be better next time.