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China: Francois brings back an exceptional tea!

11 June 2018

at 13:20 by Social

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Every spring, François Marchand scours various tea producing regions of China in search of ultimate quality leaf. This also gives him the opportunity to meet producers, who are his longterm friends, visit their gardens and discover some new teas.

Being a tea taster sometimes means spending entire days tasting hundreds of teas to find THE perfect one for our catalogue. As part of his research, François frequently uses “comparative tasting”, where he sequentially tastes several grades of the same tea, infused with the same parameters. He first examines the dry leaves, then the infused leaves, and then finally tastes the liquor. It’s a lengthy process that often involves several infusions in order to to note a degree of persistence.

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Last April, during a comparative tasting of Wei Shan Mao Jian (one of our most beloved teas over the last 7 years), François was struck by their grade 1, a small batch of very prestigious tea. When he tasted this year’s batch he simply couldn’t resist bringing it home for us to taste it.

This sublime green tea comes from Mr. Wang’s certified organic garden where his son, a graduate of the Tea University, recently took over the garden. A complete, harmonious tea to enjoy through many infusions. We recommend using a gaiwan or a beaker to discover all its nuances.

Note: this tea is offered online and only in very limited quantities (500g in total were produced). Do not miss out on tasting such an exceptional tea! It is also a perfect opportunity to compare it to our regular grade Wei Shan Mao Jian, more frank, but just as delicious.

Enjoy!

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The Quest for Fresh Leaf

6 June 2018

at 22:49 by Social

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Since 1998, our team of four tasters scour various producing countries every Spring in search of the ultimate quality leaf. This tradition makes it the most exciting time of the year for our both our loyal clientele and, of course, the entire Camellia team. The return of Francois, Jasmin, Hugo and Kevin is always an exciting time.

Exceptional Quality

When it comes to selecting teas, we chose to do it first hand: directly on location, each and every year. It is this unusual approach that allows us to vouch for the quality of all our products. It is paramount in our approach to see the gardens, get a feel for the teas and how they’re produced. Furthermore, each of our four expert tasters have explored their specific region for many years building relationships with the suppliers, and accumulating expertise as buyers. The result is a unique knowledge of key tea growing regions bringing you World class teas.

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Fresh Arrivals

There’s nothing like tasting tea fresh from the harvest. It’s a unique treat for your tastebuds. At this time the aromas and flavours are at their most explosive. While the quality of a well preserved tea is always great, it’s never quite the same as those first few weeks. Thus the yearly excitement that our whole team enjoys, tasting these fresh new arrivals. As for some of the Grand Crus….magic moments.

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New Discoveries

Tasting a newly discovered tea can be so exciting but the same can be said about rediscovering the new harvest of an existing tea, the natural similarities and differences that vary year after year.

Experience the unique freshness of springtime arrivals: pass by one of our stores to chat with our team and taste our new selections. Enjoy the bonus of a few great travel anecdotes.

Enjoy!

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Three things to know about Tai Ping Hou Kui

10 May 2018

at 17:53 by Social

 

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Our team has ecstatic at the discovery of Tai Ping Hou Kui tea, not only because it is an exceptional tea of great delicacy and complexity, but also due to the heavenly location of its garden. If that weren’t enough having know the producer, Mr. Ye, for many years, we know we have a friendly and authentic partner and that’s why this tea has been one of our favourites since 2007. Here are three things to know about this tea.

No roads lead to its garden

Located in the beautiful province of Anhui, you’d have to travel on country roads before arriving to the edge of a river. You then need to take a boat to get to the garden. The tea is made near the river in the Sanhe region. On the other bank, hidden further back in the rugged mountain terrain is where you’ll find Hou Keng, which is the village in which the original terroir of this tea originates from. It’s been roughly 4 years since Hou Keng is connected to the road. That’s how we can visit Mr. Zhang who produces Taiping Hou Kui Hou Keng, a more expensive, but exquisite tea. The steep and very rocky soil gives the tea a very complex mineral and floral taste.

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Pure craft: a special tea transformation

Mr. Ye, our producer in Taiping Hou Kui, uses an astonishing artisanal processing method to obtain flattened leaves, each on average six centimeters in length. In 2018, he was awarded the certificate of excellence from our team.

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A rare tea

To start off, we only select the terminal bud and its following two leaves. After the harvest, the leaves are then sorted and sent off to get manually desiccated. The leaves are then individually placed on a wire mesh in a way that no leaves touch each other, at which point, a second wire is placed over them. We then apply a cotton cloth on the frame, then, with a quick gesture, we pass a roller over them. We let the leaves dry, gradually and for about an hour, inside the frame over a wood fire. Impressive!

Meet our New Project: Tea Studio

28 March 2018

at 17:22 by Social

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For 20 years, our passionate team has been touring Asia in search of the finest teas and objects to offer. Our curiosity and know-how in the field has brought us to open our stores, write various books, build a tea school and open the first bar in Quebec. It is with the same passion that we have worked on a secret project for over two years, a brand new experiment in the industry: Tea Studio.

We are up and running after an epic journey that has taken us from Indi’s original vision, through a sea of red tape and bureaucratic obstacles. Mountains of paperwork and swamps of unexpected delay. Our chant throughout has been ‘Slowly, slowly catch the monkey! Our patience and resolve seem to have paid off and the Tea Studio is a gleaming example of a new artisanal approach to premium tea manufacture. It draws on many innovative elements of design, technology, environmental and social responsibility. And the tea tastes great!!

What is the Tea Studio?

The Tea Studio Project brings together tea experts from 3 continents.  This experimental micro-unit is equipped for a progressive approach to tea manufacture.  Designed to cater to the rapidly expanding market for ‘boutique’ style tea with a wide diversity of ‘tailor made’, whole-leaf teas.

 Where is it located?

he Nilgiri region is a great source of both clonal and classic seed-grown tea of both Camellia sinensis var.sinensis and Camellia sinensis var.assamica varieties. Plans to grow cultivars from other regions are already on the drawing board.

What makes it unique?

With Chinese tea culture spanning almost 5000 years the Chinese are unquestionably the masters of manually transformed, ‘hand-made’ teas.  In recent years the struggle to continue these artisanal practices and the increasing volumes of production make it difficult and expensive to ‘hand roll’ tea.  In reaction to this situation a whole range of small, very specialized machines has been developed to mimic the manipulation, rolling, pressing etc. of different styles of finished tea.

The Tea Studio team has selected 28 of these cutting edge Chinese machines for the Tea Studio set-up. This line of machines yields 5 styles of finished leaf.  When we add to 5 leaf styles to all the varied levels of oxidation the possibilities are vast.  With the guidance of our team of experienced tea planters and tasters it all makes for a very exciting playing field.

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The team

The workforce on the shop-floor is a group of women that grew up in tea from the nearby villages:

Our tea maker and supervisor is Vaideghi Kannan, 33 years old and a high school graduate, mother of two. Her family have a couple of small tea holdings nearby and supply the Tea Studio with leaf on a regular basis. She lives in the village.

Chitra is 28 years old. Mother of a 4 year old son. Her family also have small tea holdings nearby and her husband works as the night watchman for the Tea Studio. She also lives in a nearby village.

Pavitra is 21 years old, and recently finished her teachers training course. She still lives with her parents who have a small tea holding. She also lives in a nearby village.

Kalpana is 22 years old, has a B.A. and lives with her parents. Her family have a small tea holding also in the next village.

Discover our first arrivals :

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Travels 2018: our Tea Tasters’ Plans

20 March 2018

at 16:04 by Social

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At the end of March, Camellia Sinensis’ four tasters will travel to the four corners of Asia on their annual quest for Asia’ best leaf, to meet our loyal producers and also to continue various new projects.

Kevin Gascoyne

Between March 28th and May 14th, Kevin will visit India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Kevin begins his annual trip in Kolkata, before heading to Darjeeling in the Himalaya to find the best First Flush lots of the year. He will also visit one of his favourite gardens, Jun Chiyabari, Nepal, and meet our Earl Grey tea producer, Puttajhora, before heading to southern India to visit our new project the Tea Studio (details to come!). He will end his annual trip to Sri Lanka to visit various producers. This year, Kevin will be accompanied by François the assistant manager of the Quartier Latin boutique. Will he be able to keep up with Kevin, who is on his 25th trip to India? To be continued…

François Marchand

From April 8th to 26th, François will travel to China with a very special guest: Leika, his 11 year-old daughter. Francois is making a strong case to win the title of “Father of the Year”! During his trip, he will present our Certificate of Excellence to one of his favourite producers, Mr. Ye, who produces Tai Ping Hou Kui. He will also visit Mrs. Zhang, one of our favourite potters, with whom he will discuss glazes and new teaware projects. François and Leika will send us video updates and reports as during the trip.

Jasmin Desharnais

From April 9th to 30th, as part of its 16th spring on the Tea Route in China, Jasmin has quite the diverse itinerary. He will begin his annual journey exploring accessories in the north of the country. He will then continue in the east, looking for the best green, white and black teas. He will then end up in west central China in Guizhou Province where he will give a conference at the Guizhou Tea University.

Hugo Americi

From May 3rd to 19th during his 10th trip to Taiwan, Hugo will be accompanied by Manuel, manager of the Montreal Tearoom. It is Manual’s first trip to Asia he will assist various meetings with the producers, then then travel to South Korea with Hugo. A country that has eluded the Camellia Sinensis Catalogue as yet due to quality price ratio. A very interesting new departure.

THE PROJECT HIMALAYA – JAPAN

21 February 2018

at 21:17 by john

Our Japanese guests arrived late on the evening that India had beaten Pakistan in the cricket as we waited for them in the airport there was a big uproar, more horn tooting than usual, fireworks and general crazy festivities in the street.

Mr.Iwata a 17th generation tea farmer with a tiny tea garden near Kobe in Japan, was here to improve his understanding of black tea and to share his expertise in green tea.

Mr.Takeda a semi-retired tea-scientist and president of one of Japan’s most respected research institutes who has spent his life developing plants for the Japanese tea industry.

They were accompanied by Pierre our trusty translator/ interpreter, an eccentric sword smith who has lived for many years in Japan and his wife Rina.

We drove into town and, once checked in to the hotel, went out for a late night stroll through the streets of Kolkata, their first experience of India. We stopped for a traditional clay cupped chai which they enjoyed, breaking the disposable cups on the ground with great enthusiasm. Though tired, they all seemed excited and game for anything.

The next day for breakfast I pulled out a fresh sample of exceptional Darjeeling Thurbo, tasting the fresh nectar their eyes widened, the notebooks were out and the questions began to flow…

We spent the day travelling to Darjeeling. Checked in to the charming old Darjeeling Planter’s Club and then to my very good friend JP Gurung’s house for supper.

JP Gurung is one of Darjeeling’s most senior tea consultants. The son of a tea planter who, having managed many gardens for many years, now advises as a private consultant. As the Indian expert of our project he was to accompany us to Nepal the next day.

Setting up this project I had wondered whether the ‘friendly exchange’ I was hoping for was possible between people of such vastly different cultures. However JP’s warm hospitality and comfortable living room, the log-fire burning in the grate, a pot of wonderfully floral First Flush Darjeeling (and a few glasses of something a little stronger) and our shared passion for tea had us in deep discussion within minutes. It wasn’t long before the jokes were flowing and it was clear that everyone was there to make the most of it.

The following day was spent on the road and crossing the border into Nepal. Arriving late in the village of Fikkal we met our host Mr.Rai at the Nepal Small Tea Farmers factory which is a large, industrial-sized, factory owned as a co-operative by 750 small farmers, quite unique in Nepal. Fresh leaf is purchased daily from the local tea-farmers by weight and transformed into Darjeeling-style orthodox black teas. It is one of the projects that JP supervises in Fikkal. His other interest here is a tiny factory a few minutes up the road that makes artisanal green, black and wulong teas with a selection of small Japanese machines. Between these two very different tea factories we were to spend the following days exchanging knowledge and manufacturing both green and black teas together…. ……

To be continued in Kevin’s next blog….’To be continued in Kevin’s next blog….’

PROJECT HIMALAYA – JAPAN 2011

PROJECT HIMALAYA – JAPAN 2011

PROJECT HIMALAYA – JAPAN 2011

PROJECT HIMALAYA – JAPAN 2011

PROJECT HIMALAYA – JAPAN 2011

PROJECT HIMALAYA – JAPAN 2011

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Kevin’s top 3 for 2017: Discover his favourites.

20 August 2017

at 15:58 by Social

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British tea-taster Kevin first bought tea in Asia in 1989 and has since spent every spring there as for almost 25 years. Aside from his obsessive quest for Darjeeling’s finest leaf, his interest in the teas of Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the African continent have added these regions to his repertoire.  Kevin was weaned on tea and has been drinking copious amounts daily ever since. According to his colleagues his daily tea consumption compares to the flow of some small rivers.  Here are his Spring Picks for 2017.

Darjeeling Muscatel Valley DJ-3

This delicious tea from Muscatel Valley is a blend of leaves from young (clonal) and old (classic) tea plants.

As we taste the soft full, fruity attack of the clonal leaves open the flavor profile. Then gradually the more forceful vitality of the classic leaves powers through to close the flavor.  In a recent tasting this effect was compared to a train speeding out of the mist…a very Darjeeling image.

The liquor combines the “classical”, mineral (salty) and tannic character of older tea plants, with supple and fruity (typically “clonal”) accents.

Darjeeling 1st flush classic Singell DJ-11 Organic & Fair Trade

After so many years scanning the same small region for the best examples I can find, I keep coming back to this little section of old plants.  The ‘Heritage’ section of Singell was planted back in the 1860s with seeds from China.  It yields some exceptional teas and I was very pleased this year to see that they have fenced off 400 plants to be allocated as seed trees for future generations.

The infusion of its beautiful whole leaves reveals a clear liquor, lively and balanced, with a rich aroma making it one of the best Darjeelings this year. Its beautifully balanced herbaceous and floral notes contribute a surprising lightness to this fine and refreshing tea!

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Kangra Dharmsala EX-5 

The Kangra region is a secret corner of the Himalayas in the State of Himachal Pradesh.  It was planted back in the 1850s around the same time as Darjeeling.  Beautiful, classic, seed-grown plants growing at an altitude of 2000m and transformed in the style of a First Flush Darjeeling.  The flavour structure is very similar to that of a Spring Darjeeling but the flavour points and character quite different due to the local terroir.  A great discovery for any lover of classic Darjeeling.
Its full and fruity liqueur boasts bright vegetal, spicy and floral notes. Its tannic structure is rounded out by a pleasant mineral sensation(limestone) and a gourmet bread note that gives it extra depth.

Read this article about Kangra

For more information on this tea locate the garden on the Camellia Sinensis Darjeeling Garden Map.

Hugo’s Top 3 for 2017: Discover his favourites.

7 August 2017

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Since 2003 Hugo leaves each May to visit the producers of Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam. He will select many of the Wulong and Green Teas in our catalogue. Hugo knows the country roads of Taiwan like the back of his hand and given the choice would eat cooked cabbage for every meal, every day. Here are his picks for Spring 2017:

Sencha Sayamakaori

Every year, as I taste my way through over 200 types of Sencha I am always hoping to find a few hidden gem! This year, the first one that revealed itself was in a selection Sencha Sakamoto (sorry, we ran out quickly, there was only 10kg!) But the second one came from a collection of Sencha Sayamakaori. Its name originates from the Sayamakaori cultivar, in Japan. It is produced in Shizyoka by Mr. Hiroshi Kawase and is a Chumushi style Sencha despite having a leaning towards Fukamushi. It is a dark-colored tea, rich and full-bodied with a floral finish …

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Sencha Koshun
At the end of the transformation process, the Japanese often give their teas a finish which they refer to as “Hiire”.   But this tea, the Koshun, (again after the cultivar) is not finished with a firing.  Its pure clean flavour offers rich spring flower notes and can quench the thirstiest of palates!

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Dong Ding Mrs Lin (charcoal roast)
When it comes to Taiwanese teas, Dong Ding is a sure bet and this time, Mrs Lin has outdone herself with this charcoal finish. Roasted at the end of the process is common with Taiwanese wulong teas. Usually using an electric oven,  However Mrs Lin opts the old fashioned method of charcoal. The roasting gives them a comforting woody finish. This type of tea is perfect for the colder days of the fall, but Hugo recommends it for any rainy day…accompanied by a little something sweet.

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JASMIN’S TOP 3 FOR 2017. DISCOVER HIS FAVOURITES

14 July 2017

at 18:47 by Social

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China specialist, Jasmin has covered six of China’s producing regions since 2003, tasting and selecting teas of every style. Here are his picks for Spring 2017:

Du Yun Hong Cha

A great surprise awaited me as I arrived in Du Yun in the Guizhou province this year, as I tasted the first black tea made by M Li, who normally only makes green tea (Du Yun Mao Jian). I was immediately charmed by the beautiful leaves, fruity aroma and its beautiful sweetness. A great success for his first black tea production not to mention its unbeatable price. I have no doubt that this tea will find its way into our Tea and Scotch tastings, paired with a Speyside or a scotch aged in sherry casks.

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Anji Bai Cha

Despite the small harvest in Anji the quality is really exceptional this year. Over time and repeated visits to Anji I now have access to some rare batches of this grand cru. Quite the comeback for this ‘modern classic’ Chinese green tea!  The explosion of concentrated aromas makes this tea one of the highlights of this year’s Chinese green teas of the selection. To be enjoyed in a gaiwan or with a small quantity of water.

Pu Bu Long Zhu

This Zhejiang green tea is handmade by M Wang who also owns a company that manufactures machines to process green tea. These tightly wrapped leaves give off fragrant aromas and a texture similar to certain Japanese green teas. A perfect everyday tea with great depth.

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FRANÇOIS’ TOP 3 FOR 2017. DISCOVER HIS FAVOURITES.

25 June 2017

at 22:19 by Social

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Specialist in the Artisanal Classic Green Teas of China, François spends every Spring in the central provinces of China selecting rare batches of Green Tea and the aged teas of Liu Bao. Despite being a great lover of Chinese gastronomy he has been seen fleeing when presented with plate of extra aged tofu. Here are his picks for Spring 2017:

Taiping Hou Kei Hou Keng :

This year I visited the village of Hou Keng, in the terroir of the Taiping Hou Kui. Most of this area itself can no longer be harvested as it is a forest reserve.  It is located just a few kilometres up in the mountain by Sanhe village and the Taiping reservoir. The tea grows on a  steep slope of rocky soil. This tea has an unusual rich finesse. The flavour has fresh vegetal notes accentuated by rocky and floral notes. While this high-end tea is on the expensive side, it lives up to all expectations. To be enjoyed so in the peak of its freshness!

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Xin Yang Mao Jian:

We once carried this great Chinese classic in our selection but the instability of product and producers caused us to remove it. This year, I met a new producer with superb garden further out from the city of Xin Yang producing an affordable and very aromatic tea. The tea, made up of several young buds, has a lively taste, a light bight and a lingering persistence. Excellent for concentration and focus.

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Jingxian Jin Jun Mei:

This high-end black tea has been a favourite of mine for quite some time. That said, this year, the quality has really been kicked up a notch. Its many buds and precise transformation give the 2017 vintage very balanced, floral, honeyed and subtle menthol notes.

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