Spring Teas

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We have been receiving tons of tea samples from Amy in our China office and have been so busy cupping has been a challenge, can you imagine?

What we have cupped and purchased is a very limited harvest bai hao silver needle that is amazing. When white teas are straight from the garden like these there is an amazing freshness and almost "warm" aroma and a complex character that unfolds on your tongue. This is why I work so hard for moments like these!

Anyway we have tons of cupping to do when we get back from the World Tea Expo! I am very excited about the show but wont be disappointed to get back and do some serious cupping. We have a variety of distinctive black, green and green oolongs awaiting.

Look for World Tea Expo updates, until next time, Beth

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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.



MY AFTERNOON TEA BREAK





LADY DAWNYA & APRIL READY FOR THE TASTING

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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Nanjing to Huangshan - Visiting the tea gardens

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The weather is cold and dreary in Nanjing and I have spent the entire short visit in the hotel enjoying the very nice accomadations, writing and catching up with stuff in the US. Excited about the teas I have purchased in Fuding, I have a lot to share with those back home.

We board the train to Huangshan, in the late afternoon,and begin the 8 hour journey in the soft car compartment. The monkey travels with me a little token from home. Amy is off to sleep and I enjoy the countryside doted with beautiful signs of spring.

We arrive in Huangshan check into our hotel and schedule the following days meetings and garden visits. This Friday is Tomb Sweeping Day or Qing Ming and all of Shanghai will be closed so we must shorten our stay in Huangshan in order to accomplish our goals back at the office there.

We meet with old friends and new in this burgeoning city flanked by lovely mountains. Only new tea samples in this region, the primary harvests will not take place for another couple of weeks.




Visiting with Mr. Fang and all of his staff, many of who I recognize from my last visit. It is a pleasure to see everyone and they are welcoming and hospitable as always.

Mr. Fang is anxious to show us a new organic garden but the trip is to far for our short visit, next time. Organic gardens in China are far removed from the hustle and bustle of heavily populated areas. Many are located where there is zero population, which makes meeting the stringent organic requirements much easier.




We visited three gardens, had dinner and talked business well into the night before catching our plane back to Shanghai. I had the distinct opportunity to meet one of Mr. Fangs customers at dinner. This gentleman is a professor and authority on Daoism with a book to his credit. While written in Chinese, I am delighted to receive a signed copy that includes a photo of him with the youngest sister of the last ruler in the Qing Dynasty, pretty cool.

Look for my photo posts from this lovely local. Until next time, Beth

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Making Flowering Teas in Fujian

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mr. Li picks us up first thing in the morning and we are off to the factory where we are able to meet the rest of the staff, see their current facility expansion and see how these exceptional works of art are produced.

The process for making these teas is done completely by hand. The leaves are selected and individually gathered together, cut and tied. Once this preparation is complete the individual flowers are hand sewen into the leaves. If no additional flowers are going to be added the teas are then set on drying trays and placed on a rack inside a drying machine.

The atmosphere at the factory is very friendly and down to earth. The artist making the teas are quick to share a "hello" and a smile with me. Each place you visit in China has its own energy and this one is good. You can sense that this is an easy going, comfortable place to work.

We go to another area of the factory where a different variety of flowering teas are being produced and Amy and I each make a flowering tea, sewing on the flower blossom to the already formed tea leaves. As most things the workers make a hard task look easy and Amy and I decide we better keep our day jobs.

Mr. Li is also quite nice and very down to earth. We have the opportunity to cup some incredible teas before heading out to lunch and the tea institute. The new flowering tea I have selected is really cool, it is actually blossoms from the tea plant! Camellia Beauty, the name, will arrive out our warehouse in mid May. I am also very fond of the spring Bai Hao Yinzhen, one more tea to consider as I select the best teas for sale back in the US.

Bai Hao Yinzhen
New flowering tea, Camellia Beauty, arriving in May



Watching these beautiful teas being made




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Arriving in Fujian Province

We arrive in Fuzhou and are met by our driver, sent by Mr Li whose company sells us the beautiful flowering teas. The flight to Fuzhou was uneventful and I am looking forward to the 2 hour drive to Fuan. Driving like this is always a great opportunity to see the countryside.

When we finally arrive at our hotel Mr. Li is there to greet us with a room key in hand. The three of us go to dinner and discuss the following days agenda; a visit to the processing factory, the tea institute and the gardens.

Off to sleep to prepare for a great day tomorrow!

Until tomorrow, 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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More Bi Lo Chun Pictures

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PICTURES FROM EAST MOUNTAIN AND BI LO CHEN FACTORY

Beautiful freshly processed Bi Lo Chun











Selecting leaves











Processing the leaves by hand





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Bi Lo Chun Tea

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What an amazing day. We were invited to join Pauline, Mr. Yu, Mr. Chen and the Agriculture Director of East Mountain, where the original Bi Lo Chun is grown, Mr. Wu for a visit to the factory where the finest early spring Bi Lo Chun is produced.

This exceptional tea is completely hand processed from the first plucking to the final downy buds in the cup. I was honored to enjoy a cup of the rare first flush, so limited in supply that it is not available in the commercial market. Unlike many of the Bi Lo Chun teas that I have previously experienced this soft green tea has obvious fruit tones and a sweet, complex character, what a treat.

The factory owner and Mr. Yang, head of the East Mountain Farmer Cooperative, explained that the original and only certified Bi Lo Chun, one of China's 10 famous teas, is only produced in the East/West mountains. Most of the Bi Lo Chun teas, especially in the US, are copy's, not the real thing. Authentic Bi Lo Chun teas are certified, like a trademark, and are extremely expensive. Certified teas can not be sold randomly without an agreement with the cooperative, which is what the meeting is all about today, procuring the selling rights for certified Bi Lo Chun teas in the Shanghai market.

Mr. Yang went on to point out the many differences in the environmental conditions that add to the exceptional character of the tea. The East, West Mountains are surrounded by water and connected by only one bridge. The moist, humid conditions create the perfect atmosphere for growing tea. In addition the surrounding lake acts as a barrier, protecting the area from unfavorable conditions, man made or natural. Pauline suggested to me that this is a "clean tea" because of this barrier. The teas grow among various fruit trees giving them their naturally sweet, fruity character.

Special processing is precisely carried out by hand and is extremely labor intensive. We entered the factory to witness a long line of tea plucker's waiting to see if their teas would be selected for processing. Once selected the teas were collected by workers and the leaves and buds were striped, the best way I can describe it, ending up to appear as a single bud the size of the tip of a small pinky finger. It was amazing watching these workers so carefully, yet quickly prepare the teas for firing.

Although very expensive I was able to purchase some of the first flush teas we had cupped and am looking forward to sharing them with family and friends when I return home.

We had a great meal I will tell you about later, going to the Humble Administrators Garden in Suzhou, more photos later to.

Until next time, Beth

Bi Lo Chun Leaves

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