As we move into the May Foodie Reads Challenge this month, I wrapped up The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See.* One of my best friends gave a copy to me - and one to another friend - as an early birthday present for me and a late birthday present for her. Then she took us to the Hidden Peak Teahouse in Santa Cruz for a tea tasting. What fun! I knew that I wanted to take my boys back there.
I packed the book for a quick overnight to the East Bay, determined to finish it; I'd been able to read a chapter here and there for the past week or so, but I just wanted to dedicate an evening to it. And, when I did finish and we had an extra couple of hours to kill on our way home from Berkeley, I knew we had to stop at the teahouse.
Typically when we spend the night in a hotel, we turn on the television. It's a special treat, especially since we don't get any TV stations at home. This trip, none of us touched the remote control. Books, Inc. in the Gourmet Ghetto had been one of our stops that day, so everyone had new books to read. I was able to hunker down in the hotel and finish The Tea Girl.
I'm not going to say too much about it. The novel is about an Akha ethnic-minority girl named Li-yan whose family cultivates tea on the remote mountain in Yunnan, China. Li-yan gives birth, out of wedlock, to a daughter and - instead of killing her as would be tradition - she swaddles her, tucking a tea cake into the blanket, and abandons her at an orphanage. The baby is adopted by an American family in California.
This is a powerful story about lives separated by circumstances, culture, and geographical distance. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is a haunting portrait of a little known region, its people, and its tea! I cannot remember a book that has ever given me goosebumps as I've read it.
I texted my friend who gave me the book. "Finished it. Goosebumps!" I wrote.
Good goosebumps? she asked.
"Yes! Good goosebumps. Amazing book," I clarified.
In Our Cups...
So, I already mentioned that I took the boys to the Hidden Peak Teahouse on our way back home this weekend. We perused the tea menu and decided on a Shou Pu-erh for one pot and roasted twigs (no tea leaves, just the stems) for the second pot.
We watched as the leaves were rinsed and the water poured over the cups and the 'tea friend', a jovial ceramic Buddha. Jake looked at me and said, "So, I take it you want one of these tables..."
I'm not sure I'll get a table like that, but I might be able to finagle the Buddha. But, I know it's far down the list of things he needs to do for the house.
There are two different types of Pu-erh tea: Shou means 'ripe' or fermented while sheng is 'raw' or unfermented. The Shou Pu-erh tea we selected was called 'Big Blessing.' Shou Pu-erh is a ripened tea that involves an accelerated fermentation before it is pressed and formed into different shapes. We were served just a portion of one disc in our tiny pot. As we steeped, poured, drank, and steeped again, the tea grew darker and more complex. Wow.
Pu-erh is typically labelled with year and region of production. 'Big Blessing' was produced in 2008 with leaves grown in the Tengchong region. That particular region is high elevation with clean air and water and rich, volcanic soil. It's a delightful tea that is dark, sweet with hints of dates and minerals
We also tried a tea that was made from the stems of the tea plan and didn't include any leaves. The boys really enjoyed that one. All three of my 'big blessings', yes, I mean Jake and our boys, loved the tea tasting room. We can't wait to get back up there again soon.
*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.
Here's what everyone else read in May 2017: here.