First Day at Sea and Training

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The day starts with a cup of tea and breakfast, via room service, on our balcony. The weather is fabulous and I am wishing that I could sit here and not move! Knowing that is just not possible I prep myself and my materials and I am off for my morning session on marketing.
We catch the last 15 minutes of Lady Dawnya's presentation which is great. Not having had the opportunity to hear her speak previously I am throughly impressed.

I quickly find that this is a great group, enthusiastic and not short on ideas or the confidence to share them, exactely the way I like it! We spend 2 solid hours talking about gathering customer data and venues to look for marketing opporutunities.

After a delicious lunch and tea break we are back for this afternoons tea tasting and slide presentation, which includes some of my travels to China's tea gardens.

We cup Bi Lo Chun from East West Mountain, Dragon Well from Hangzhou, Guo Lu and Keemun from Anhui Province. Agian the group does not disappoint, they are throughly engaged and interested in cupping and quality evaluation techniques. I discuss my experiences and relationships with growers and the various tea growing regions cooridinating with the afternoons teas. I share my Lu Yu sightings and my visit to the National Tea Museum in Zhejiang Province.



We talk about quality issues in the US and the fact that while we have come a long way in the last 10 years we have so much further to go. Many US wholesale buyers still purchase marginal quality teas for a variety of reasons; lack of knowledge, lack of experience and a misunderstanding about price versus quality. Yes you can buy one gunpowder tea for less than another but that does not mean you are getting a better value or a good deal. Just as prices vary do does quality.

We wrap up for the day and everyone is all smiles anxious to arrive at our first port of call, Grand Cayman, tomorrow. The ship is due to arrive around 9 am. Newman and I have preplanned an excursion in Grand Cayman which will start tendoring to shore first thing.
We skip getting dressed, it's formal night, and opt for a quite dinner in our cabin and another wonderful nights sleep with the ocean breezes.
Until next time, Beth

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Spring Time in West Lake

Thursday, March 27, 2008

All settled in at the fabulous Hyatt Hangzhou after a very hectic day traveling by train we are really excited about the day ahead at West Lake.

Hangzhou's West Lake area is consider to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in China and spring makes it even more appealing. The plum blossoms are in bloom and the gardens are breathtaking.

We spent the afternoon just enjoying everything the area has to offer. The last time I was in Hangzhou was during the spring festival which occurs in late April and is an important holiday when many Chinese travel domestically, Hangzhou being one of if not the most popular place to visit. Needless to say on my last trip it was so crowded with people I did not enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

I took tons of great pictures and tried to upload them but am not able to, something with my connection? Which sometimes happens here....will post some eventually!

Back to business tomorrow cupping teas in Hangzhou, until next time, Beth

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Cupping Teas in Hangzhou

I was looking forward to cupping teas in Hangzhou because I can always depend on Paul to source some good early spring Dragon Well's and he came thru as always. We spent the morning sampling several different grades including one from ancient trees.

There really is nothing that taste like a good early spring Long Jing and the aroma, I love it. Since the last time I visited with Paul he has gotten married and has a new baby and we enjoyed catching up.

With limited time on our hands and gifts to get for people back home I wanted to get some shopping in. About 1 1/2 blocks from Paul's shop there is a great street market that I have enjoyed in the past. Very traditional Chinese looking market with plenty of stuff to choose from so I picked up a couple of things to include in the box I am shipping home.

One thing I have learned traveling in China is first I seem to collect things everywhere I go. Second those things get heavier the further into the trip I get and third and most important, EMS is the best way for me to ship things back at different intervals to lighten the load!

I finish the visit with Paul and check out of the hotel to meet with another supplier to cup some organic teas then off to the airport to Fujian province for a few days.

I am excited about visiting the Fuzhou, Fuding areas of Fujian province because it is new territory for me and that is always fun.

Until next time, Beth

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Tasting Teas in Shanghai

Friday, March 21, 2008

We cupped so much tea that I forgot to eat!

We began our day traveling across town to a tea market where various brokers have set up small shops selling a wide range of teas. As I entered the market I was overcome with the intense aroma of Pu'erh tea, yum.

There to meet and cup black tea's with our friend Pauline I experienced some wonderful Mao Feng Keemun's, golden Yunnan's and another very interesting tea that Pauline referred to as 1/2 fermented (oxidized). Not oolong, not black tea but 1/2 fermented. She went on to tell me how this tea got better with age, similar to a Pu'erh, and kindly gave me a gift of this special one year old tea. She said I must try it each year for the next 3 years to experience the transformation in the character.

Pauline told us about the celebration taking place this weekend for the first spring harvest of Bi Lo Chun and invited us to go. So we have changed our plans and will be skipping our trip north to Jinan. That will wait until I return in July and is not nearly as urgent or fun as following tea! I was hoping to visit Suzhou on my last trip so I am excited that it worked out this way.

We enjoyed a couple of hours cupping and laughing together and then wandered the market checking out many spring Dragon Wells which are now plentiful on the market.

After collecting samples and pricing we were off to lunch and another tea market. We enjoyed a simple noodle soup lunch, which I love, but was so full of tea that I could not eat much. I think it is so funny Americans are always poking fun at the tiny Chinese tea cups, but those little cups sneak up on you quickly. That aside the best part about cupping with this brewing style, using a gaiwan, is that each infusion of the leaves revels another layer of taste and character.

In the second market I met a new supplier a woman from Huangshan area who had some wonderful Dragon Well, Bi Lo Chun and in about 10 days will have the spring Mao Feng greens, cant wait. We cupped her teas and moved on to oolongs sharing some special Da Hong Pao from our Wuyi tea friends. Many times gardens and/or factory owners will have shops in larger cities to sell there teas this was just that type of market. Again we gathered samples and pricing and set off to meet with our Shanghai freight broker Charley.

We stopped to get something drink in a very "cool" coffee bar, yes coffee bar. The youth of China adores everything western and scoffs at the old tradition of tea. Charley even ordered iced tea! What is this world coming to?

After our meeting in the upscale shopping and business district we were off to get fitted at the Cheong Sam shop where we got to meet and get fitted by the master himself, 91 years old and still going strong. There must be something in the tea here!

Back at the hotel we begin mapping out our newly adjusted travel schedule and planning for the days ahead. I am teaching Amy the meaning of spontaneous.

Off to Suzhou for the very exciting Bi Lo Chun festival, celebrating the first spring harvest of this famous Chinese tea.

Until next time, Beth

Bi Lo Chun and Dragon Well Spring Teas

Lunch with Amy

Famed 91 Year Old Shanghai Tailor

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