Most of us had stayed up almost to midnight aboard the Victoria Anna to experience the thrill of passing the first of five locks that would take us through the Three Gorges Dam, the largest water control project in the world. This morning, under a mimi (“light mist”) rain, we were at the dam itself to admire its awesome twenty-six hydropower generators and scenic beauty. But first I had to hunt down something more important, a supply of the newly harvested green tea from the verdant mountains framing both sides of the upper reaches of the mighty Yangzi River. Known by Chinese tea connoisseurs as Ming Qian or “pre-Qingming” tea that is harvested before the Qingming Festival that usually falls sometime around the fifth of April, this first-growth tea has grown on me ever since I first sampled it at the Yichang Airport enroute to Shanghai three years ago. Green tea picked after Qingming is considered by tea people as less desirable because its essence gets washed out by the rains that come with the start of the monsoon season in the Yangtze region.
Along with a fellow Smithsonian traveler, a retired mid-wife who proclaimed green tea one of the most potent antioxidants around, I was very happy to find Three Gorges green tea that was harvested just a few weeks ago in a shop close to the dam.
To learn more about our Imperial China and the Yangtze tour, click here.