Updated: Oct 18, 2018
No matter how tiny it is, every life has its presence in the mountain. In tea gardens, moss is often overlooked but cannot be neglected. When you walk into a deep tea valley, you would realize you are actually surrounded by mosses. The greenness covers stone steps, narrow pathways, gardens, tree branches… It feels like a soft invasion, a delicate hug. If there is gentle morning sunlight penetrates the thin layer of fog, the green moss would turn to the color of light yellow, as if it is not awaken yet.
Following a twisting moss-covered mountain path, we can finally reach the top of the little hill. Looking down at the valleys of endless tea plants and green moss, we finally understand the ancient travel notes:
If the mountain is all pure rocks, it is not suitable for cultivation; if the mountain has barely some “skin” (soil), it is suitable for tea plants. Tea plants grow disorganized in the village. Looking from above, tea plants are like green moss scattered in the valley; cool wind brings fresh and soft aroma … the sound of fowls and people talking is all immersed in the mild greenness. (山皆纯石，不宜禾黍；遇有寸肤，则种茶。村落上下，隐见无间，从高望之，如点绿苔；冷风所至，嫩香扑鼻……鸡声人语，尽在翠微之中。)
Among the mosses covered ground, we can often find Shui-Xian plants. In Wu-Yi oolong rock tea, we always say “mellow taste of Shui-Xian and sharp aroma of Rou-Gui”. The “mellowness” of Shui-Xian here means the fragrance of the moss.
The moss fragrance in Shui-Xian is decided by the age of the tea plant or the tea valley. Shui-Xian tea plants are not trees but bushes. Older the tea plant, bigger and stronger the crown. The nutrient supply network from the roots to the leaves is more complex in older tea plants. This is why the taste of Shui-Xian harvested from new plants, tall plants and old plants have distinct differences. In some tea valleys that receives little sunlight, even if tea plants are young, they can still grow thick mosses and produce the moss fragrance.
Of course, this doesn’t mean a serving of Shui-Xian is good if it has just the moss fragrance. The moss fragrance is only a part of the elaborate work of tea-making. The quality of tea also depends on the climate, the harvest, the shaking, and the delicate roasting. A tea that has everything done perfectly can be called a good tea.
The moss fragrance is not always noticeable. If made with good quality water, Shui-Xian would release a thin aroma of the moss fragrance. It smells like matured nectarine or the taste of cream. It is the body smell of the plant, a mixture of the forest woodsy and tasty aroma.
I guess even the little moss would think itself as unimpressive. But, who would have thought that some seemingly insignificant mosses could contribute this much to a cup of good tea?
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