By Claire Hou
Xiaohusai is located in the deep, mountainous terrains of Yunnan Province, which is known for its rich cultural and ethnic diversity, as well as its famous pu’erh tea.
The nearest city to Xiaohusai is called Lincang, the 10th most populated city in Yunnan. About a tumultuous 2-hour car ride away, Lincang stands at the foot of the mountain Xiaohusai is located on.
Lincang is known for being humid, especially during the summer. 70% of the annual rainfall occurs during the months of June through September, so every visit to Xiaohusai at the end of the school year is a wet one. The streets are always lined with shop after shop selling raincoats and waterproof boots by the time we arrive.
It is a very charming city, from what we have seen of it. We usually spend the car-rides from the airport thoroughly conked out in the backseat, only waking up when it is time to have dinner.
Dinner, every year without fail, is at the same family-owned restaurant, at the same brick crosswalk. I have yet to see any sort of title or identifier for it, but it isn’t difficult to recognize. The kitchen is visible from where we sit down in the dining area, the sound and smell of oil sizzling in the wok strong. On the wall hangs a large styrofoam infographic about how to distinguish poisonous mushrooms from edible ones, as the nearby mountains are filled with mushrooms that can be picked and sold for money.
The wi-fi password isn’t hard to guess either. It is probably identical within a twenty-mile radius: eight eights. The traditional Chinese symbol for good fortune and great wealth.
Nearby, there are bustling markets filled with people selling fruits, vegetables, everyday necessities, and the occasional tourist good. Pointed straw hats stacked high next to a pile of oranges, plastic mats on the ground underneath a mountain of longans. The streets are dirty with rainwater, but the produce is pristine and locals bicker good-naturedly over the stands.
Many of the children we are sponsoring attend school in Lincang. They live at school during the week, and their parents pick them up by motorcycle on Friday night to go back to Xiaohusai for the weekend. It is a bit of a hassle, but the best they can do for now.
Going to Lincang from Xiaohusai is a fairly long and tedious journey, so most villagers don’t venture down that often. Still, it is there, and plays a great part in these families’ lives.
By Claire Hou
Black tea, as opposed to Pu’erh, is more common in Western countries and widely consumed. Beloved variants such as iced tea and sweet tea are usually made using lack tea.
Tea is known to have originated in China, but thriving trade routes and abundant exports meant that people all over the world could get their hands on tea. Demand for tea, and strong black tea in particular, spiked in England in the 1700s.
Black tea production increased significantly in the 19th century, when the Camellia sinensis assamica tea plant variety was discovered in a region of India. In 1835, the English started planting tea gardens near Nepal, and these different varieties of black tea became popular in England. The well-known English Breakfast and Earl-Grey teas are made from black tea leaves.
How is it made?
What differentiates black tea from green tea is that the leaves are fully oxidized before applying heat and being dried. This oxidation gives black tea its dark color as well as a distinct smoky flavor, depending on the variety of tea.
What are its health benefits?
Tea is well-known for its health benefits, and black tea in particular has antioxidant properties, which help decrease cell damage in bodies. One study showed that theaflavins in black tea reduced cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and therefore risk of diabetes, obesity, and other related heart problems.
Black tea can also provide a small caffeine boost. It contains less caffeine than green tea, and significantly less than coffee, so if you are looking for a small energy boost but not to pull an all-nighter, black tea is a great fit!
How should it be brewed?
Check out our previous article about the right way to brew tea, and bon appetit!
by Claire Hou
Xiaohusai is a place brimming with stories, buried away like treasures, that reveal the humanity in us all.
This is the story of Wang Fang, a student at Mengku High School—the secondary school closest to Xiaohusai.
We stand on the patchy field of Mengku High School, Yunnan. Rubber soles pound against the turf as students race around the track like an angry stampede. A boy wearing a neon yellow t-shirt runs far ahead of the others, arms pumping furiously.
“My name is Wang Fang,” he says to us later when we find our seats in a hastily cleared office, harsh fluorescent lights beating down from above. “I’m sorry I’m late. I came here as soon as I could after class ended.” A glance at my phone tells me that it is just past 10 p.m. “I’m no good at school,” He laughs bashfully when we ask him about his academics. Instead, he wants to be a policeman, he says, so “Then I can beat up bad guys.”
By Claire Hou
We all have that one friend who is addicted to bubble tea (and if you don’t, it’s you). While this means that there are as many bubble tea stores as Starbucks around now, it also means that sometimes you have to wait up to 15 minutes or even an hour just to get a taste.
Luckily for us, it’s now possible to treat ourselves to a nice cup of bubble tea without even stepping outside. And I don’t mean ordering take-out– save yourself the calories, additives, and time by making some bubble tea at home!
Tapioca pearls can be store-bought and prepared at home, but can also be made from scratch. Here is a handy recipe for homemade pearls: https://thethingswellmake.com/how-to-make-boba-tapioca-pearls-from-scratch/
The tea itself is much more simple, it is as the name suggests, a mixture of milk and tea. Bubble tea is commonly made from black tea, but green tea is also a popular variant. Bubble tea really depends on personal taste, from the sweetness to the type of tea used to the toppings. If you feel so inclined, you can also add flavor with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or flavored syrups.
There is also no correct recipe for the amount of sugar and milk used, as taste varies from person to person. Here is a general recipe to follow: https://www.cupandleaf.com/blog/thai-iced-tea
Enjoy the rest of summer with an ice cold cup of homemade bubble tea!