Gift from the Forest: A life spent amongst tea

The world of Chinese tea is at once easily accessible and nearly impossible to fully grasp. Even when choosing one specific variety — such as southwest China’s famous Pu’er tea (普洱茶) — the permutations, growing conditions and serving methods appear endless. For more than three generation, the Shi family has sought to find a subtle balance between obsessive connoisseurs and the newly initiated while sourcing the finest leaves from the prefectures of southern Yunnan.

Tea has been drunk in China for a few thousand years, although no one knows explicitly when the practice began. Chinese myth points to the demigod Shennong (神农) as the godfather of tea drinking, while DNA analysis suggests the first strain ever to be cultivated — Camellia sinensis — was endemic to portions of modern-day Myanmar, Yunnan and Sichuan provinces and put into cultivation about 3,000 years ago.

Over time, of course, tea became China’s drink of choice — as ubiquitous as water, steeped in history and available in a dazzling array of flavors. For families such as the Shis, tea is as much a philosophy as it is a product. Without being too trite, it influences the quality and tenor of their lives. This is a fact borne out not only monetarily, but on a daily and seasonal basis.

“Tea can become a discipline that fosters an unhurried temperament while encouraging psychological introspection,” says Ms Shi. She is the head a family tea business in southern Yunnan called Gift from the Forest Teas (森之馈). The origin of the business grew out of her experiences more than 20 years ago, when an adolescent Ms Shi and her grandfather would hike through the rainforests of Xishuangbanna (西双版纳) in search of wild tea trees — some of them centuries old. After collecting enough leaves, they would return home and carefully prepare the forest-gathered tea.

While this preparation process is at least a few centuries old — varying from village to village and sometimes house to house — today everyone in China knows the end result is one of the country’s most sought-after tea varieties, Pu’er. The method Shi learned from her grandfather, at its most basic, is fairly simple — pick, sort, clean, sun-dry, hand-rub, dry by roasting, shape into a desired shape, wrap in banana leaves and allow to ferment in the sun.

For Shi this process is by now ingrained and intuitive. But the science of making high-quality Pu’er tea involves careful temperature modulation, the precise stimulation of enzymes and perfect timing. “To me,” she explains, “the procedure involves going through the required and proper motions, but also necessitates personal ethics and aesthetics. You have to use your hands. This is paramount.”

And so each spring and autumn, Ms Shi can be found traveling the Yunnan countryside in search of small-hold, forest-based farms that live up to her expectations. She focuses almost entirely on areas in Lincang (临沧), Pu’er, Yiwu (易武) and the slopes of Bulang Mountain.

Local weather conditions — temperature, humidity, sunlight and rainfall 

levels — factor into the job of selection, as do soil quality, elevation, and the use of pesticides and fertilizers. “All of these considerations affect the taste and quality of tea,” she says. “You cannot violate the basic laws of nature. Ecosystems need to be left in as much of a natural state as possible, and the most important thing is that the plants are free from pollution.”

Hunan cuisine: YUMMY !!

Hunan cuisine, also known as Xiang cuisine, consists of the cuisines of the Xiang River region, Dongting Lake, and western Hunan province in China. 

It is one of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine and is well known for its hot spicy flavor, fresh aroma and deep colour. 
Common cooking techniques include stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising, and smoking

Entertainment and fun in  Macau 

Macau  officially known as the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is an autonomous territory on the southern coast of the People’s Republic of China. Macau lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong Kong, which is about 64 kilometers to the east, and it is also bordered by Guangdong to the north and the South China Sea to the east and south.

 With an estimated population of around 636,200 living in an area of 30.3 km2 , it is the most densely populated region in the world.

Being Asia’s well-known gambling Mecca, it is a place to find the traditional Chinese culture while enjoying the exotic Portuguese buildings. The name of the city is derived from the word Magao (A-Ma Temple), which was the shrine dedicated to Mazu, a sacred sea goddess respected by the local people. 

It was said that in the middle of sixteenth century when the Portuguese first set foot there, one of the officers asked a fisherman the name of the land. The man misunderstanding the officer’s meaning, answered ‘Magao’ – the name of A-Ma Temple in front them. 

The word became the Portuguese name for the land and for nearly 400 years, the Portuguese ruled here prior to its official return to the People’s Republic of China on December 20, 1999 as a special administrative region.