Every late April and early May is the once a year tea-harvesting season of Wu-Yi oolong rock tea in the Wu-Yi mountains. Mountain call (Chinese: 喊山) is a ceremonial activity that marks the start of the busy tea-making season.
Wu-Yi mountains in March is a sleeping beauty. Early spring breeze gently fondles the plants. Grey sky brings rain after rain. Birds, flowers and trees start to slowly prosper and claim their presence in the nature. In the still hazy winter-themed mountains, purple river mangrove tree flowers whisper to each other in joy. Tea plants, on the other hand, are rather anxious and hesitated to sprout while cold air lingering and frostbites lurking. It is a power, a much mightier power that tea plants await to be awaken by.
Mountain call is tea makers’ wish as well as the announcement of the arrival of this mighty power.
Mountain call started in China’s Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). Although Wu-Yi tea-making was already established in Song dynasty (960-1279), it was not officially administrated by the royal court until Yuan dynasty. In 1301, the emperor of Yuan authorized the the establishment of Royal Tea Garden (御茶园). In the early years, Royal Tea Garden could only produce about 20 pounds of tea each year. In 1326, the Royal Tea Garden had an employment of 250 households and increased its harvest to about 360 pounds of tea leaves. In 1332, Royal Tea Garden built a 5-feet tall platform named “Platform of Mountain Call” (Chinese: 喊山台) and a temple named “Temple of Mountain Call” (Chinese: 喊山寺) on the mountain. Every year, officials from the Royal Tea Garden must lead the mountain call. After a round of drumming and bell-ringing, all tea farmers gathered and called out: “Tea sprout! Tea sprout! (茶发芽！茶发芽！)”. The resounding and echoing of the mountain call marked the commencement of the tea-making season.
Nowadays, China no longer has a royal court and Wu-Yi tea is no longer a royal-only luxury. But the tea makers still retain most of the traditions. At the beginning of every tea-harvest season, tea makers would host ceremonial events. In the early dawn of the first day, tea makers would set off a series of loud firecrackers, then lead teams of workers into the tea mountains without talking or looking back. The event goes on till the sunrise.
Today is the first day of this year’s tea-making. We will have firsthand articles, pictures and videos of our tea-making. We are excited to take you with us on this amazing journey.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, this blog was inspired by an article written by our family friend Ms. Xuan-Bing Ye, the daughter of famed tea master Mr. Qi-Tong Ye. If you’re interested in reading more of her tea related articles (in Chinese), please tweet us @valleybrooktea or email email@example.com for instructions on how to find her works.