Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate, the first automobile any of them have seen, and a stranger arrives. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city. As Li-yan comes to educate herself, leaving her insular village for an education, business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins, and across the ocean, Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu'er, the tea that has shaped their family's destiny for centuries.