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Blog 65: Tea Flowers

I often feel that there’s not enough poems and songs about tea flowers.

In my memory, there are more novels mentioning tea flowers than poems. In those novels, tea flowers are always associated with a love story. Love and hate, happiness and sadness, passion and depression, all happening near a field where tea flowers are blooming. Young girls put on white and blue dresses for the season. What a beautiful and poetic scene.

But I guess few authors have had the opportunity to personally visit a tea mountain. In their imagination, tea flowers should blossom in spring, just like most other flowers. In fact, tea flower blossom starts around October and ends around February.

Yes, most tea flowers blossom during the coldest time of the year. The cold temperature definitely kills any romantic thoughts for our novel characters. Perhaps this is why generations of novelists insist a spring blossom for tea flowers.

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An autumn tea flower

If you come to our mountains now, you’d meet tea flowers all over the mountains and plains. In this late autumn, cold air softly attacks you with a misty rain. Clusters of tea flowers stretch their petals towards you. This probably makes a more sentimental scene than a loving one. But we shouldn’t feel sad for them at all. After all, they’re not blooming for us. With or without our admiration, tea flowers claim their dominance over the ground.

I suddenly understand the lack of poems for tea flowers. Chinese artists have always distanced themselves from flowers like peony that represents wealth and nobility. They favor lotus, chrysanthemum, plum blossom and orchid that can show their noble character and ambition. Mr. Zhou Dunyi of Song dynasty (1017-1073), a philosopher and poet, once praised lotus for staying innocent while growing in muck and mud. Tea flowers, however, don’t really cater to them. In terms of the growing environment, tea plants enjoy the best of the world. There are just not too much for poets to eulogize.

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A tea flower

Frugal is possibly the best word to describe a tea flower. In my opinion, tea plants are the most frugal of all. Naturally, tea flowers become the most frugal flower. If you think about it, the purpose of a tea plant is not to produce tea leaves. The final product of a tea plant is tea fruits. Just because we consume tea leaves, it doesn’t mean that everything after the harvest becomes futile to tea plants. Tea plants in winter are close to the end of their annual cycle. The sparks of flowers on the branch is the final glory before tea plants take a long nap until the next spring. Chalky white and chalky green petals surround a bunch of golden buds. Just another annual routine for tea plants.

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The son of our tea maker holding a tea fruit

Autumn and winter are the lazy seasons here in our mountains. Under the warm winter sun, even our diligent garden dogs are lying on the ground. Thankfully, tea flowers add some much needed vitality to our world. Kids are playing near the tea plants. Like a group of bees, they run into tea fields and take down flowers. They told me that you can actually taste the floral sweet if you lick the golden flower buds. If tea leaves belong the the grownups, then tea flowers belong to the kids. It’s the first bond between our young kids and the world of tea. One day, these kids will grow up and maybe become tea makers. Tea flowers will still be there to greet them like old friends. Will our kids remember, just how they first met tea flowers, in a calm, joyful warm winter day?

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