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Many Teas in Yunnan are Organic but it is Not Sufficient

[2016.04.13] Posted By

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Every year I stay in Yunnan Province for about a month to source various Yunnan teas. During my stay, I have opportunities to eat the local food in various places. I found an interesting trend. The quality of tea in the respective area is in proportion to the taste of the food material served at the same area.

Yunnan cooking

From my point of view, the Yunnan cooking is strongly influenced by the Thai, Myanmar and Sichuan style. Various spices and herbs are used and generally the taste can be hot and spicy. I often travel different provinces of China to buy teas. My favorite food is always the Yunnan cuisine. The unique characteristic of Yunnan cooking that impressed me is they use a lot of local vegetables, and whichever fresh wild plants and herbs available in each particular season. They never choose material according to what they want to cook, but to cook the fresh food materials available in each season. In most of the local town and rural areas, there is no preset menu in the restaurants. They will display whichever fresh vegetables and wild plants/herbs available at the moment, and after we choose the food material then we decide the cooking style. While I am staying in Yunnan, this food serving style often reminds me of the rhythm of the nature and the changes of season; this is the lifestyle that has long been forgotten in most modern cities.

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Huge gap between the taste of food in rural village and Kunming city

Basically the style of cooking between the city like Kunming and the rural village in the mountain is more or less the same. However, there is a huge difference in the quality of the material they used for cooking between the city and the rural area. In Kunming, they tend to use a lot of mono-sodium gluconate (MSG) in cooking, just like other cities in the world. On the contrary, those chemical condiments are seldom used in the rural village. As a result, the “quality of food” is so much different between Kunming and rural villages.

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Different level of understanding in natural farming in different villages

Normally, the primary tea processing facility is located at remote mountain area which is closer to the natural farming tea garden. In general, it took me a one whole day trip to visit these tea processing sites. I often being offered to have the home-cooked food prepared by tea manufacturers. While I am visiting many villages and tasting their food as well as tea, I started to realize that the quality of the food ingredients and materials are in proportion to the quality of tea produced in the respective area. If the tea has very strong aftertaste, their food also has very strong aftertaste. It could be partly because of the soil and the altitude. But most importantly, their sense of value in natural farming practice directly affects the quality of their agricultural product. I frequently stay at villages located at altitude around 1800-2000m. When I communicate with the villages, they often amazed me. Many of them are very well aware that fertilizer spoils the quality of agricultural product. In developed county or in city, people often think organic product is the best. However, believe it or not, any agricultural product in those rural villages is kind of organic product. The only fertilizer available in those villages is comes from their livestock. Regardless of organic or chemical fertilizer, once fertilizer is applied, the tea tree or vegetable grows faster and bigger. As a result, tea or vegetable gives very light aftertaste. I was impressed that people live in the rural villages in the mountain somehow knows this fact very well. Throughout their experience, they know very well that agricultural product without any fertilizer is the best in quality. They are aware of the negative effect of fertilizer on the taste of tea and also the rest of the agricultural product in their village.

Modernized food culture in famous tea production area

In south Yunnan, the price of tea is generally very high. As a result, it changes or in other word, modernizes their point of view in agriculture. Since their tea is very popular and tourist kept visiting there, many of them pay attention on the quantity more than the quality. Despite it is in the same Yunnan province and mostly tea is also grown by minority ethnics, they have very different way of thinking from the people in the rural village in south west Yunnan. In south Yunnan, they always emphasize on organic product. They proudly tell us that they are not using any chemical fertilizer, but organic fertilizer. Naturally, the taste of food material used in those villages are not as refined as what we eat in rural village in south west Yunnan. Their philosophy in agriculture is clearly reflected on the quality of tea as well as all other agricultural products.

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Rice with very thick taste

I used to think that Japanese rice is the most delicious, until I tasted the rice in Yunnan. The common rice served in Yunnan, especially in town/city area is not nice though. I was very impressed by the rice I ate at the remote village located at very high mountain area in south west Yunnan. The rice was made without any fertilizer. It gives very deep taste and its taste lasts very long. After eating their rice, I felt like drunk due to the too high mineral content. It was just like tea-drunk effect. Japanese rice is very nice in terms of texture since they have series of research and development in cultivar. However, I am not judging the quality based on the texture but taste. I felt that some rice made in Yunnan is extraordinarily outstanding in terms of taste.

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Goat meat that gives no goat meat smell

It is not only the vegetable or plant that taste is affected by the way of growing. I realized that the most precious and exclusive chicken is not the one grazing around the village, but the one that is given no food at all. For them, the value of chicken is lower if they are fed with any food. I often visit a small village in the mountain area to buy tea. At this village, chickens are very busy running around and knocking the ground to look for worms. Once chickens are fed, they are considered as second class in quality. To my surprise, those chickens that are grazing and not fed give no so-called chicken smell at all. I used to think that the taste of chicken meat is light and plain. But that non-fed chicken gives extremely thick aftertaste; it is really beyond the taste of chicken. The taste of chicken in the local town is obviously much lighter. Perhaps they are grazing around but being fed. Even so, these chickens are still much better than the chicken we eat in Kunming or big cities. The other day, I ate goat meat. It was a goat grown without feeding and in natural style. I used to think that goat meat has a distinctive flavor like mutton. However, the goat grown by only eating natural grass never gives distinctive goat flavor. The other day I also ate the liver of cow. I am fine with liver but some people do not appreciate it due to its peculiar smell. But the liver I ate was very different. It did not give any odd flavor. It had the texture of liver but no liver flavor, with extraordinarily thick taste and very lasting aftertaste. I could eat it just like I am eating vegetable. I realized that the smell of meat is not due to the animal but animal feed.
Likely to human, it is the food that composes our body. It is essential to eat and drink quality food.

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