Sleeper Train Adventures: Tea Picking in Meijiawu Village

It happened y’all. I found a place to pick tea. My last day in Hangzhou I woke up with positive thoughts, telling myself I just had to get outside and it will all work out.

After breakfast I set out for Meijiawu Village, another area in Hangzhou famous for it’s tea fields. I wasn’t in the rice fields five minutes before I found my first opportunity to learn about tea picking. Seeing a lady picking tea I walked up the terrace to ask if I could take her picture, passing by a group of older ladies taking pictures together.

They of course stopped me to ask if I would take a photo with them and, because I said I would put myself out there more on this trip, I agreed and started chatting with them.

When more of their friends joined them, they invited me to their home for tea and to meet their niece who speaks fluent English. I can say that I was definitely not expecting the 11-year-old that met me at the doorway. She was such a vivacious little girl. Excited to hear all about the U.S. and share information about her community. We ended up strolling down the street for a while and and stopping to watch people pick tea. During this time she told me about her dreams of being a reporter and traveling the world to learn about different cultures.

While I would have loved to stay with them all day and learn more about their lives, I was still on a mission to pick tea and I had a 4 o’clock train to catch. So I left with promises to see them the next time I was in town and headed down the road in search of tea pickers.

It didn’t take me long to see cars parked on the side of the road and people scattered in the fields. I continued to walk, knowing that I would know when I found what I was looking for. And sure enough! I saw a group of people with matching hats and aprons and baskets picking tea. The first thing I though was, “This will work! I will take commercialized tea picking at this point!” So, I asked the first set of young women taking selfies I saw (they always have the best information) how I could pick tea. They texted someone in charge and when he arrived he asked me to wait for him to return them to the house and return. Next thing I know, I’m in uniform and in the field!

What I learned on this trip is that when you are picking tea, you are looking for leaves that are about about one to two finger joints in length, and have a bud attached to the base. I was actually nervous I wasn’t doing it right when the farmer left me. Others were picking so fast! But I’ve been waiting forever to do this and I didn’t want to do it wrong!⁣ I kept thinking “Is this too short? Is this too long? Did that have a bud or was I imagining things.” You know how you are so excited about something, you stress yourself out when it actually happens? Yea. That was me.

But I enjoyed every moment.

What was great about this experience wasn’t only picking tea, but also being able to watch it be processed and packed up just for me!

At this point I feel like I can leave China now. I did what I came to do.

Sleeper Train Adventures:

Published by brianalennet

Visual anthropologist and digital storyteller

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