Black tea maker keeps tradition alive in Longwu
Longjing tea has long stolen the thunder of another Hangzhou product, Jiuqu Hongmei, a black tea renowned for its sweet and mild taste.
Longwu Town, located in hilly area of west Hangzhou, is a major production center of Jiuqu Hongmei.
Lu Huafang, 48, is the only woman who has been named as an intangible cultural heritage inheritor of making Jiuqu Hongmei in Xihu District. A Longwu Town native, Lu grew up in a tea family. Her grandfather and father made a living from tea, and then handed down their skills to her.
Today, Lu plants more than 12 hectares of tea trees which produce high-caliber Jiuqu Hongmei. To support the local industry, authorities provide free organic fertilizer to her plantation. The agriculture department uses drones to spray pesticides.
“Longjing is green tea with a refreshing taste ideal for summer, while black tea has a sweet-scented aroma, suitable for autumn and winter,” Lu told Shanghai Daily. “In traditional Chinese medicine, black tea warms the body and adds inner moisture during chilly days.”
Jiuqu Hongmei requires more time and labor to produce than Longjing, which leads to lower output, according to Lu.
“Only old trees grow buds for black tea. Their roots run deep into the soil, absorb more nutrients and sustain through low temperatures and drought,” Lu said. “All of the trees on my plantation are 50 years old or more.”
Every year, Lu produces 2,500 kilograms of Jiuqu Hongmei. Every kilogram contains about 72,000 buds. In spring, the buds are considered the gentlest, with a subtler aroma. She recruits pickers between late March and the end of April. She also uses modern machines to aid processing and ensure standardization.
Handmade Jiuqu Hongmei was listed as Zhejiang Province’s intangible cultural heritage in 2009. Now, Lu has four apprentices in hopes of handing down her tea-making wisdom.
She has also established the Hangzhou Tea Culture Library in Longwu Town, which shares a loan system with Hangzhou Library.
Last month, the great-grandson of Feng Zikai donated around 100 of Feng’s books to the library. The elder Feng was an influential contemporary caricaturist, who used Chinese ink and traditional painting techniques to create his iconic images.
“My library has the largest collections of books about tea. Over the years, I have gained the support from local government and residents, so I hope the library can make contributions to the community,” said Lu.
Lu has also established the Meilong Tea Society as a platform for promoting tea. It has hosted cultural activities for Hangzhou universities and organizations.
City College of Zhejiang University has used the club as an extracurricular center for students majoring in media, marketing and public relations.
Along with food, Lu also produces crafts inspired by ancient dyeing techniques. Her scarves and clothes are dyed with natural colors after being immersed in tea water.
“When we try to spread tea culture among young people, we should innovate products with creative ideas,” Lu added.