The story of this new tea began in late April when we got a phone call from the headman of Ban Komen village. He informed us that in the next two days they were not going to harvest tea leaves because of a Buddhist celebration. The whole neighborhood, including two other villages, decided to have a holiday. To pay our respects to the local traditions, we sent them gifts they had requested, mostly rice and cigarettes. Surprised by the news of the workers having a holiday, we did not really know what to do with the time while the factory was out of business.
On the third day, I was out of patience. In the morning I said to our driver, «Come on, let’s go.»
«No, they are not ready yet. We should go after lunch.»
«Aaayya, who takes holidays during the harvest season?» I mumbled back.
In the afternoon, our driver took us to Ban Komen, and on to Ban Payasi. There we suddenly met a lot of collectors with bags full of tea leaves, freshly picked. It was like a miracle! Usually we get 30 to 40 kilograms of tea leaves in this village but today there were about three hundred kilos. It turned out to be a very successful holiday!
The tea trees in Ban Pyasi are truly special. They grow in a beautiful environment that enriches the plants with a unique and distinguished flavor. But most importantly, during the withering process, you can smell an amazing pear aroma in the freshly picked leaves. When I sensed that aroma, I was excited and said, «This tea I will make myself. No one else should touch it!»
Actually, three hundred kilos of raw tea leaves are not that much. But to provide consistent fermentation for that amount is extremely difficult. I laid the twisted leaves on a wooden pallet in four rows, covering the last two rows with cloth in order to finish the fermentation on time.
By that evening, the leaves had turned brown and acquired the flavor of fermented tea. At that point, it was time to start a fire and heat up our wood stove. There is a peculiar issue with this wood stove. Once it gets hot, the temperature inside is impossible to control. To achieve proper drying, your only option is to adjust the time the leaves are exposed to the heat. Usually, we heat the stove up to 120 to 130C, but this time I stopped at 85C.
I worked at drying the tea until almost midnight. At times, the aroma was so strong, I wanted to run out into the mountains just to drink freshly made tea and forget about the rest of the process. But, of course I finished it all. The very next day, we realized that a new type of Red tea had been born. We named it «Buddha’s Blessing.»
Later, we would try to make a similar tea, but it did not work. It had been such a lucky coincidence, harvesting that much of tea at once and drying it as we did. After the holiday, the amount of tea collected per day, from the whole village, settled backed to the usual 30 to 40 kilos. And that was not even every day.
Apparently, the local Buddha liked the holiday, and had thanked us with the one and only opportunity to prepare such unique and lovely tea as Buddha’s Blessing.