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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mojun Fucha Fu Zhuan

Over the past week, I attended the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. After reading OolongOwl’s travelogues of various expos in her blog over last few years, I decided to put this trip on my bucket list. When I received an offer of a press pass to the Expo from Aaron Kiel and investigated the costs, I allotted the remainder of my tax refund to cover the trip. One additional very attractive reason to go was for the weather. My climate has experienced unseasonable rain and humidity for some months now, and I seriously needed to air my skin and dry out my sinuses. Two days of Vegas weather and all of that cleared up for me. A day spent in the resort pool and riding the monorail before the Expo left me feeling fairly fabulous.

At the Tea Expo, I recognized OolongOwl right away standing at a puerh tea booth. All I had to do was observe the faces of everyone standing around trying the teas. An experienced puerh tea drunk is easy to spot amongst a crowd of hesitant puerh newbies. I couldn’t get close to the booth with the crowd, so I waited for her. She allowed me to tag along for some of the exhibits and I learned a great deal watching her at work. I met a number of other bloggers and learned that

1.      My blog is thoroughly tasteless and inappropriate.

2.      I lack business cards. Everyone seemed to want one, and it never occurred to me to get blogger business cards.

3.      I really, really like puerh and brick tea.

4.      The tea industry is impressive and full of friendly people who care about forming a community.

OolongOwl and I found a tea booth fairly early on that obsessed us for much of the remaining days at the Expo, Mojun Fucha tea, a Shaanxi-based company that researches and produces Fu Zhuan brick tea. When we spied the booth with a huge 1 kg brick chipped open to expose the golden flowers, we got enthused right away.

“Golden flowers Fu Brick!” Oh goodness, my mouth waters.

Two men at the booth lit up with surprised expressions.

“You know golden flowers? Americans do not know Fu brick.”

“Oh yes we do,” I said. “I own quite a bit of Fu brick tea, and we discuss vintages as well.”

I thought of our heicha discussion topics on Teachat. I tried to start a conversation about the difficulties of growing the flowers in a drier climate. But I had trouble conveying understanding with the language differences, though the Mojun Tea representatives were more than competent in English. The booth had 1 kg and 2 kg bricks of green Hubei style heicha, and boxes of tea bags with darker Anhua style tea.

2 kg Fu brick
OolongOwl and I kept our initial visit at this booth short and sampled a few small cups of dark Anhua style heicha. After all, we had a good acre of other tea vendors to cover. But just around the corner this tea hit me full on with a head tea stone. I started feeling oddly woozy like I’d smoked a joint. Strange for a heicha. This tea was my first of the day and I think Owl’s second tea sample. We got to drink a good amount of a vintage 8582 from another vendor I shall cover in another piece, but after this I had to admit I was thoroughly baked, and that crazy heicha from Mojun Tea was the reason. We both sat down just wondering over this tea. I passed out at the hotel after a bowl of soup.

The next day, I had to get to the bottom of this heicha we drank. I returned to the booth and told the reps I was willing to become their vendor and sell east of the Mississippi and I felt pretty sure that Owl could handle the west. But please gimme more to drink. This time I drank one of the green Hubei style teas. The rep introduced himself as Xiangdong Zhou.

“You and the other lady understand Fu brick,” he said. “Many people come by and taste our tea. They say ‘okay’ and ‘very nice’ but I feel they do not understand.”

I felt determined to drink as much tea as possible and not leave until I bought whatever we had yesterday. At first, Zhou did not want to sell me any tea, so I decided to get more information and asked about the displays at the booth showing maps and information about Xixian New Area in Shaanxi.

Booth display
“Xixian New Area?” I asked pointing at the maps posted on the back of the booth.

“Yes, Xixian New Area. We have new district at the top of the city. This is where the factory is, we have our research and cultural committee. You should visit our factory!”

You can check out this company's website at mojunfucha.com. 西咸新区金叶茯茶有限公司-西咸新区金叶茯茶有限公司. Zhou told me about the Fucha Park and the hopes that their company can reach out to western customers with Fu brick teas. He also introduced me to an American friend of his, a man who said he has known Zhou for sixteen years.


I managed to purchase a box of tea which Zhou said was the tea we had on day 1. I was surprised to find out this Anhua dark style tea was actually brewed from tea bags! He agreed to sell me a box for $50 but then also gave me an additional box of a different tea and a large cello bag full of samples

The kilo bricks retail for around $85 or so. The Hubei style tea of day 2 also produced a heavy stoner sensation that I began wonder if the Mojun Tea company has a mission to get the country tea drunk. The tea was brewed very lightly too, I didn’t feel I got a full taste of the brew despite the fact that I had dry mouth and munchies and needed to pass out again. Once back home I planned to brew the tea more to my preferred strength. Zhou is a delightful person and I really enjoyed meeting him and heck yeah, I would love to tour the factory.

Back at home, I start to read about Xixian New District. It is, of course, one of several economic projects in the area, but I see now how special it is. Can you imagine a Fucha Park dedicated to Fu tea culture? The website says “The Fu Tea Culture Industry Park has established a cultural industry chain centered on Fu tea, with tea production, research and development, experience and cultural shows, to drive the economic and tourism development in neighboring towns. The Fucha town is planned with low-density housing and business and a simple and unsophisticated style thanks to a blending of tea culture and Guanzhong folk and life culture in its construction.”

That sounds wonderful to me. I wanted to tell Zhou about my state of Wisconsin with our history of agricultural projects, and how we too develop economic research and factories in new areas of towns, even the small town where I live, and how we both live in areas that try to put the modern housing areas away from the older, cultural sections of town. His area has historical buildings and artifacts from centuries ago that are saved for cultural appreciation. My town too has kept the 150 year old area of town for the appreciation of tourists and city people, and built the newer housing and technical college further away. I could not say any of that because it would take too long to explain and is somewhat off track from the purpose of Zhou’s work at the Expo.

At home, when browsing the Mojun website, I found a download file with a small article on the tea. In it, if you click on the blue link for “Fu Brick” you go to Baidu, the Chinese wiki article for Fu brick tea.

We know that raw green/yellow tea material for Fu brick comes from Hubei and then the dark black tea component is from Anhua, Hunan or Fujian areas. The tea materials were historically shipped in bamboo baskets to Shaanxi for processing into Fu brick. The Hubei material historically made part of its journey via water transport through Wuhan. After that, bricks journeyed south to the Xiamen area for water transport westward.  

On Baidu, I read that during the Second Sino War after the Fall of Wuhan, all Hunan material was diverted over to Shaanxi and special efforts made to continue making brick tea by opening a People’s factory there. The tea must keep shipping even during a horrible time for the people who need this dietary component in the far west. So the tea then went west from Shaanxi instead of southward for sea shipping. After the war ended, the production was then handed back to Hunan, but as Zhou explained to me, the golden flowers germ did not grow as well on the bricks as it had in Shaanxi, which is partly what led to the creation of the Xixian New Area.

I put together a map to help me imagine the journey of the tea over the last century.

Journey by various types of tea.
I have shaded the Wuhan area to
show how the tea would have
crossed the war zone area
The Fall of Wuhan affected the movement of the raw material tea to Shaanxi, yet materials would make it there to the People’s factory, so Fu brick teas continued to be made away from the war areas. As I read these lines in Baidu, the Fall of Wuhan, and the Wuchang uprising flashed before me, the river floods where the yellow tea might have crossed. If my heart is like a house, the subfloor falls out from under me and I am free falling, floating.

The Baidu articles refer to the decisions to do everything possible to continue making brick tea as  “an act of love." This is indeed the best metaphor possible for everything that was done by the people of China, keeping this tea in production during that whole time of war. What a great effort this must have been with human lives as the cost on all ends from leaf to brick to tea, human lives in the making, and human lives on the line too if the tea was not made. And I visualize tracks in a mud road, the same tracks used by the nuns of my own order in Wuchang, the paths of the students and the tea. I have written all this, several years ago in my post about Sister Rosa teaching me of those years in the Wuhan area.

Now, I am a rational person, and not completely an idealist nor a historical romantic. I know the layers of great complexity around human events that we cannot wholly simplify. But when I see historical connections, I will not deny them. The fact is, Zhou’s profession today in the Shaanxi Xixian New Area rests on the history of war years in Wuhan, on pivotal decisions made then to divert tea materials to Shaanxi to the People’s factory there. Likewise, my profession as a teacher and a tea blogger today rests on the nuns of my order in Wuhan at that same time, from Sister Liu and Sister Chen, and Sister Leclare from Wuchang. I doubt either of us would have met attending a Tea Expo in 2017 without all this history.

Like I said, I don’t go looking for these connections but I cannot “unsee” them. My life has many of these. Indeed, what else can we do except to marvel? I stopped reading and researching Mojun tea at this point. I tried to do other, non-related tea reading but my subfloor is gone. The pictures of the war years in Wuhan and the stories of Sister Rosa just will not leave my mind. I see Zhou standing before me when he tracked me down elsewhere on the exhibit floor to give me yet another box of tea. I needed to think and cry a little for another day, in a good way, before resuming my research and tea drinking.

Anhua dark style Fucha, "Cherish Red" by Mojun Fucha
I purchased about 200g of brick teas in tea bag form but the ones I purchased are new, dated April 2017 and not up on their website yet. I could not justify buying a whole 1 kg or 2 kg brick when I already own 1 kg bricks of heicha at home. As I found at the Expo, the tea bags we were served there gave me the same tea stoned feeling at home. I did some experimenting with the parameters. First, I took one of the 3g bags of dark Anhua style heicha called “Cherish Red,” and tried the tea in a 100 ml Jian Shui teapot. I used the whole 100 ml capacity because this tea has strong effects on me.

The date shows this is a recent production.
This 3g/100 ml is nevertheless stronger than what we were served at the Expo for sampling. Here I can really taste the dominant flavors of red/black tea along with betel nut. The early steeps have a red wine nose and slightly plummy flavor. The tea is rather fine in the tea bag and some comes through my teapot into my strainer, but this mostly stops once the tea fully expands in the water. I got about eight flash steeps before the tea weakened. I noted a mineral taste contributed by the tea pot and then decided the tea pot and gong fu method are unnecessary for this tea after passing out again on my bed.

Gongfu style in Jian Shui
Next, I steeped the Cherish Red tea bag western style using a Kamjove tea pot with the filter top. The top actually has a super fine filter and I could empty the tea bag into it, but just decided not to bother and mostly use the Kamjove as a pitcher and brewed the tea in it. I used about 4 minutes of steep time and then took my huge pitcher of tea with me to play a video game. I enjoyed the relaxation this tea gives, more diluted, rather than passing out. The tea is also very good cold when steeped western style. In fact, it would make an interesting alcohol tea cocktail. We had some tea/wine cocktails at the Tea Expo served sangria style with fruit. I’d say double the tea drunk if you use these teas for cocktails.

"Blue Dancers," by Ed Martinez
Mid-century art on my floor of
the Westgate Resort, and the old
gold hallway wallpaper.
 Mostly I drink puerh that a real puerh fiend would enjoy, yet this dark Fu tea bag might appeal to people who prefer red/black tea, or who can’t stomach puerh and yet want some of the heady enjoyment that puerh tea brings. Many heicha teas can be a bit skanky with storage issues that must be aired out, or rough with sticks. This tea is clean enough for a spa crowd, in my opinion.

Western steeping in Kamjove brewer sans the lid.
Because of Mojun’s research as a government initiative to introduce a fine heicha product to western tea drinkers, I contacted a couple of western puerh vendors with the information to check out these teas and consider offering them for sale. While the company has a website and Taobao, ordering is much more accessible with western facing vendors. With any luck, we will see these products soon in a favorite online store.
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I have more to cover from the Tea Expo in coming days



2 comments:

  1. Okay, golden flower fu is officially on my list.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I want to try it so bad! But the website is down :/ so fun to read about your adventures!

    ReplyDelete