Our Tea Blog | Camellia Sinensis

Blog

2019 Travels : Our Tea Taster’s Plans

14 March 2019

at 13:24 by Social

Tea Studio 2018-55

Spring has always been an exciting time for our team and our clients, as our experts leave Quebec for a few weeks to find new gems and bring back some of the freshest tea out there. As of the end of March, Camellia Sinensis’ four tea tasters will travel all across Asia as to meet our beloved producers, set up new projects and return with some world class tea.

Here’s what they can each expect over the next few weeks…

Kevin Gascoyne

Kevin will begin his annual trip in India at the Tea Studio, our experimental tea factory in order to meet the project partners, help produce some tea and collaborate on the development of new products. It will also be an opportunity to enhance the educational and touristic offer, as the Tea Studio will host a group of Americans tourists visiting for a few days. Our team is very excited to develop this side of the Tea Studio over the next few months. Kevin will also take part in meetings to help formalize the creation of a community-based project in which 1% of each sale will go to improve the village’s infrastructure.

Following his stay in the Nilgiris, Kevin will then head to Darjeeling to look for some new teas as well as do research. He will also meet two up and coming industry players from the industry and help improve their plantation operation.

His journey to India will end in Kolkata, where he will visit the Earl Gray factory, meet the Tea Board of India to discuss the Tea Studio. He will make a quick stop in London before returning to Quebec to give a lecture at the UK Tea Academy. Stay tuned!

This year, Kevin will be accompanied by the African producer Alexander Kay (Satemwa, Malawi) with whom he’s very excited to chat about tea factory.

Tea Studio 2018-20

Jasmin Desharnais

For his yearly spring travel in Yunnan, Jasmin will be accompanied by Laurence Lambin-Gagnon, a tea advisor at our store in Quebec City. Laurence is a huge fan of Pu Er, making him the perfect companion for this trip. They will both go on the hunt for some world class Pu Er which has become increasingly rare in Yunnan.

Jasmin will then head to Guizhou, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian. On the menu: create a new celadon collection in Longquan, acquire some new knowledge about green tea processing in Jingning and Anji, and visit a compostable glass factory.

Jasmin is particularly eager to make tea with producers this year, get a good feel for the leaves and dive into the tea processing techniques.

Intrigued by China? Read our recommendations for a memorable trip!

Tea Studio 2018-19

Hugo Américi

Hugo will visit Japan between May 6th and 17th along with his son Léo as well as François Marchand. They will visit some of the core research centers in region of Saitama with Mr. Miyano, producer of our Temomicha. The majority of the trip will then take place in Shizuoka, where they will meet our dear collaborators and friends from Sencha Nagashima (a 40 farmers cooperative) and award them with the 2019 Award of Excellence. To complete the 2019 Japanese tea menu, they will partake in many other tastings and visits.

They will complete their travels in Tokoname where they will meet some potters and pick out some of the gems that we will feature on-shelf this year.

On a side note, Hugo is particularly eager to show Japan and all it has to offer to his son!

Tea Studio 2018-4

François Marchand

François’ trip will be quite different this year as he will accompany Hugo throughout the country of the Rising Sun. He hopes to seize through various photos and videos the beauty of the tea gardens and also to interview producers, artisans to create content for our platforms. He’ll be equipped with a drone and a camera, so he’s surely to have some fun while capturing what we’re sure will be images to makes us all dream. While in Japan, he will take advantage of the opportunity to report on the matcha production in the Kyoto region, with our producer of Matcha Uji.

Do you have questions or requests for our tasters? Feel free to leave a comment under this article!

Chine-2018-4

Tea Masters Cup: A Competition Between Tea Enthusiasts

13 March 2019

at 19:33 by Social

54419143_2150574284979301_891364335652175872_n

Back in October 2017, Kevin had the chance to attend the World Finals of an event called the Tea Masters Cup whilst in China for a conference. This very exciting competition between young tea enthusiasts of all styles is very similar to the barista competitions of the coffee world and is now becoming an international phenomenon.

JL1A1978.JPG

If we divide modern tea culture into three principal categories: production, trade and consumers, the Tea Masters Cup is a project entirely focused on the cultivation of the consumer market. It is seen as a think tank for the evolution of tea culture, new preparation methods and service concepts.

This March, Kevin travelled to Moscow, to act as a guest judge in the Russian competition, to learn more about the organization and to further the process of bringing the competition to Canada for the first time in September. A project he is working on with the Canadian Tea and Herbal Association. Not to be missed!

More about the competition:

  • The Tea Masters Cup started in Russia and is now held in 23 countries, from France to Australia, Vietnam, China, Korea, Latvia … More and more countries join the competition each year;
  • Participants can register in one or more of the four categories: Preparation, Pairing, Tasting and Mixology;
  • The movement is entirely run by volunteers
  • The competition is fuelled by enthusiasm for tea, beyond the rivalries between companies;
  • Participants are often young adults, passionate about tea and keen to take an active part in the tea evolution of tea culture.
  • The prize for the winners of each country’s national competition is to be sent to the world championships to compete against winners from all the other countries.

54428352_2150621994974530_3724406475846582272_n

Vietnam: Tea in Women’s Hands

5 March 2019

at 13:30 by Social

unnamed

Though many women participate in tea harvesting activities, they are not as present in the tasks involved in tea manufacture, most of which are traditionally and still carried out by men. There are exceptions, however. In Vietnam’s Thai Nguyen region, it is mostly women taking care of tea production, from the first cultivation to the final sales.

According to Ms. Hiep, the inspiring 67-year-old manager of the Tan Huong Cooperative, the dominant role women play in her company reflects the reality throughout Vietnam, where women occupy eighty percent of all jobs in the tea domain. Amongst this small cooperative’s thirty-seven employees, only five are men. Sharing all of the tasks and equipment, men and women jointly produce a green tea comprised of large twisted leaves intended for the domestic market.

Despite the quality of the teas produced in Thai Nguyen, Vietnam’s most renowned tea region, the market is quite saturated. Some growers limit their production to avoid a surplus. In seeking to develop Vietnam’s primarily domestically-oriented tea market, some artisans have attempted to produce small-leaf teas of a higher quality; sadly, due to a lack of regular buyers, they are usually forced to return to their regular production.

This market reality, common to many tea regions, has forced some growers to develop new lines of traditional and everyday teas. Over the last few years, the Tan Huong Cooperative has been making Wulong tea in an attempt to diversify their production. On international markets, Wulong can sell for up to four times the price of their regular green tea and demand is on the rise. Should the cooperative succeed in introducing this new tea to the international market, it will certainly have a great positive impact.

unnamed-1

With this in mind, in 1997, the women from Tan Huong began to plant the cultivars used to produce Wulongs. Without the expertise or equipment required to transform these leaves, however, they have not yet managed to develop a satisfactory product. To address this problem, the cooperative has recently joined ranks with Mr. Xu, a Taiwanese specialist, to learn more about Wulong transformation processes and the complexity of parameters that must be respected to create a quality tea.

According to Ms. Hiep, their recent progress has been very encouraging, but, before entering the foreign market, the cooperative will have to resolve many other organizational challenges regarding transportation, financial transactions, and quality control. With Mr. Xu’s help, the members’ perseverance, and the good fortune of having the support of the next generation ready to join them, the future looks bright for the Tan Huong Cooperative.

China: definitely not the Evil Empire of Tea

4 February 2019

at 0:41 by Social

unnamed

For the last twenty years we have been talking to clients about China the Motherland of Tea, their questions and concerns. China’s development has been impressive over the last 15 years. We’d like to take a few moments to share our views on some of the issues.

As you know, our expert tasters visit The Middle Kingdom each and every spring to meet producers and to ensure the quality of the gardens and their product. It puts us in the fortunate position of having a clear yearly picture of the Chinese tea industry and their evolution over the last couple of decades.

unnamed-2 copie 3

China tea did have a little trouble with its priorities back in the 1990s. There are still tea drinkers out there with strong opinions about Chinese teas based on those now distant years. But it is safe to say that since then, the mentality has shifted and evolved in China. This has become even increasingly evident into the 2000′s. So perhaps we all need to revise our perception of the Chinese tea industry as it is constantly and rapidly changing.

Back then, their tea industry heavily focussed on”image” rather than “taste” or “flavour quality”, image of the product itself or of the garden behind it. Priorities and mindset began to shift from “what looked good” or grew in a prestigious field to “what tasted good”. That change has visibly impacted many aspects of the industry, including their production methods. The art of tea in China is rising once again and catering to a new discerning domestic market. Everything is evolving so fast in China including their general mindset and social conscience.

30738736_10156399852643417_8376510309782781952_n

So though some of their practices in the not too distant past have been questionable, China is far from being the Evil Empire. Many producers and tea institutions have taken a keen interest in improving transformation and production methods and have creating complex export regulations to ensure quality of their product. Chinese tea looking better than ever.

As far as Camellia Sinensis is concerned, we control our imports by doing a few key things. We visit our producers each year to validate the quality of leaves, gardens and production methods. We also send the teas to a lab for a complex inspection process in order to fully ensure the quality of the leaves that we offer to you, our customers.

We hope this helps you to understand our perspective on the issue as well as why we so often say about Camellia Sinensis, “we would never sell something we wouldn’t drink ourselves” and trust me, we are pretty fussy!

Tea Studio : Our interview with the Chief of Operations

21 January 2019

at 18:46 by Social

IMG_5782_large

Our experimental factory in India known as the Tea Studio has now been open for just over a year. Our four expert tea tasters left in October 2018 to visit the factory, meet the team and make tea! They also took the opportunity to welcome two of their favourite Chinese producers to help them optimize the production.

François sat down for a chat with the chief of operations, Muskan Khanna, to discuss her job as well as her team, comprised entirely of women. We’ve come to discover that the project wouldn’t have been the same without her passion and dedication.

F : When did you start getting interested about tea ?

M : It was around when we started talking about this project, about 3 years ago. I thought the concept was innovative and different – I just wanted to get involved. I spoke to my father, Indi, one of the associates, and I got the opportunity to become the chief of operations. That’s when I started learning a lot more about the industry as I visited many other factories to understand the process.

F : Can you share your background previous to joining the Tea Studio ?

I studied in media and advertising and I worked in that field for many years. Needless to say, it’s a very different world. My father taught me a lot about my craft and I couldn’t be happier to be part of the team.

F : Can you describe to us a typical day at the Tea Studio ?

M : I typically arrive at the factory around 9AM and I spend a bit of time in my office answering emails and doing various administrative tasks. After that, I head down to the production floor and then…well I normally spend the rest of my day there!

F : How was it working with our two Chinese producers?

M : I love it ! I learned a ton of new ways to help us improve the quality of the production process within the factory.

Tea Studio 2018-60

F : Talk to us about being one of the few women managing a tea factory.

M : It’s definitely not something you see everyday in India and at first, it didn’t help me making people around me understand what my day to day reality was. There was also an adjustment period for me to learn how to balance my personal and professional life. All that being said, I’m so passionate about what I do and I couldn’t be happier. I’m given a lot of room to grow as well as being empowered. My father often reminds me “You’re the boss around the shop”.

F : What about the rest of the team ?

M : The Tea Studio is 100% comprised of women. We’re now all friends which gives a great energy flowing throughout the factory.

AN INNOVATIVE TEA FACTORY: TAKE A TRIP WITH US TO THE TEA STUDIO! – PART 2

22 October 2018

at 13:03 by Social

Tea Studio 2018-29

From October 1st to 20th, our four tea tasters were visiting the Tea Studio, our innovative tea factory in the Nilgiri (India). As they’ve just returned from what was a particularly inspiring trip, Hugo, François, Jasmin were visiting the project for the first time. Here’s what they had to say:

Nature at its best

First and foremost, the architecture of the factory is simply splendid! Whichever way you look at it, the studio is beautiful. Located among a patchwork of small-holder tea gardens, every window frames a beautiful landscape image.

Tea Studio 2018-19

Contagious energy

Warmly welcomed with a ton of positive energy from everyone in the factory. We were warmed by the fact that everyone on staff seems to love what they do and also, and have excellent relationships with each other. François also spent time with Muskan, head of the team, to talk about their work and what it means to be an all-female team leading the project. Stay tuned for more on our blog!

Tea Studio 2018-13

A shared vision of respect

We also spent a day meeting with our Indian partners to discuss the progress, as well as future of the project. It was a great pleasure for us to realize how much we had in common and that our values and vision were well aligned. Although our local partners come from different industries (pharmaceutical, construction, tea and spices), they all had tremendous respect for one another. It made easy to agree on many ideas, including the establishment of a community-based project where 1% of each sale would go towards improving the infrastructure of the village as well as the purchase of fields around the Studio for tea growing. A great pleasure to meet such a strong and respectful team, very similar to our Camellia Sinensis partnership!

Tea Studio 2018-2

Knowledge shared

It was after a long journey and a short night’s sleep that Mr. He and Mr. Tang, two of our favourite Chinese producers, arrived at the Tea Studio, they got straight to work. They were immediately interested in the leaves, the machines and our process, but they also took the time to taste the teas and visit the garden. Mr. Hewas bombarded with questions from Muskan, our head tea-maker who was really excited to receive so much priceless advice on how to improve the product. She also nicknamed Mr. He the “Tasmanian Devil”. As he spun around like a tornado, by the time our translator Yan had translated his instructions to Muskan, Mr. He had already moved on to something else! François also spoke with the two Chinese producers to get their opinion on the progress, their opinion on the potential of the factory as well as their first experience in India.
Stay tuned for more on our blog!

Tea Studio 2018-58

A dream come true

For our tasters this is a dream come true. The evolution of the project is developing well and is in tune with the vision they had originally. A true team effort, Jasmin will continue to work on improving the production and the quality of the tea. Hugo will build the work structures, Kevin will continue to share his tea knowledge and work as the bridge between the different cultures, while François will keep creating content and documenting our progress.

 

AN INNOVATIVE TEA FACTORY: TAKE A TRIP WITH US TO THE TEA STUDIO!

4 October 2018

at 11:37 by Social

Tea Studio 2018-58

Innovation in the tea industry

The Tea Studio is a prime example of a new wave of artisanal approach to manufacturing tea of high quality. It relies on many innovative elements, in its design, technology and its environmental and social responsibility.

Furthermore, this project has brought together tea experts from 3 continents. The team has an avant-garde approach to tea making through experimentation in order to meet the growing market of boutique-style tea with a wide variety of “custom” teas.

The Tea Studio is located in India, more specifically in the region of Nilgiri, which offers an excellent source of clonal and classic tea, grown and cultivated with Camellia Sinensis seeds var.sinensis and Camellia Sinensis var.assamica.

Tea Studio 2018-60

Have you been following the Tea Studio evolution?

Back in March 2018, we had officially announced the launch of this new project, labelled as an experimental tea factory located in the Nilgiris. Today, the factory has been operating for a full year and our four expert tasters have already are over there for some hands-on research and development. Have you had a chance to taste our first batches?

Tea Studio 2018-56

A busy travel itinerary!

From October 1st to 20th, Hugo, François, Jasmin and Kevin will be at the Tea Studio with their Indian partners, fine tuning the way that the factory operates as well joining them for meetings and providing support to the production team. It will also give the collective a chance to plan and organize the next phases of this project. So plenty of work ahead… but constantly surrounded by that incredible view of the tea gardens!

Tea Studio 2018-44

China arrives…in India

Two of our favorite Chinese tea producers (Mr. He and Mr. Tang) will be joining the team on this journey to share their expertise and fine tune their production methods. Mr. He, is the producer of several classic Chinese green teas (Huiming, Jingning Yin Zhen, Bai Ye Long Jing, Long Jing Zhejiang, Long Jing Jingning Bai). At home he is a well known agronomist, processing specialist, scientist, director of a tea research center and taster, will be helping to improve the tea factory’s overall quality. This will be his first trip outside of China! We are so lucky to have this opportunity to benefit from his experience on this type of project.

Though the quality of our first batches greatly exceeded our expectations, this is very much a learning process so this is a unique opportunity for us to improve.

Tea Studio 2018-52

From tea tasters to tea producers?

After 20 years in the tea industry, Jasmin recently admitted he’s looking forward “to getting his hands dirty”! This will be an opportunity to do so, as our four tasters will not only be tasting teas at the Tea Studio they will be actively help producing it. Look out for the new batches produced by either Hugo, François, Jasmin or Kevin.

Participate in the local community’s development

Our team’s quality of life is an essential part of our mandate. The Tea Studio is gradually raising funds to provide access to education for girls from the rural villages in the valley.

Tasting Notes: Dan Cong Wulong

14 August 2018

at 11:06 by Social

Jiang Mu Xiang

The Feng Huang ‘Phoenix’ Mountain range of Guangdong province, is home to some really old tea plants some claiming to be as old as 1000 years. They are part of a deep ancestral culture that spans many centuries. Old tea plants like this hail from a time, prior to industrialization, when all cultivation and manufacture was done manually: from the seed to the finished leaf.

As a plant, Camellia Sinensis has the ability to mutate quite easily resulting in single trees from the same garden having their own genetic nuances. Naturally the taste and aroma chemistry of the leaves also has its own unique make up from one individual plant to another. Over time certain tea plants exhibiting interesting flavour profiles were pampered and named by their owners. These unique, precious tea trees are highly respected and sought after by both producers and consumers. The title Dan Cong meaning “unique tea tree” is given to plants that reveal such specific character. Harvesting is done individually so that no plants yield is blended with the neighbouring plants. Teas of this style originating from this region are called Feng Huang Dan Cong. A blend of the plants genetics and the techniques used to finish the leaves results in each batch having a different signature.

This year, we have two of these single tea tree Dan Cong that both originate in Da An in Wudong village (in the Feng Huang Mountains). They were harvested in mid-April and processed by Mr. Huang, who is also our Chi Ye producer.

Mi Lan Xiang Wudong Daan

From the first seconds of steeping this wulong releases captivating fragrances and a real explosion of aromas. Scents of citruses (tangerine, grapefruit) mixed with warm traces of caramelized sugars from its light roasting over wood fire. Blended in its creamy texture are some more fruity notes (exotic, litchi, guava…) and sweet, silky finish. A tea with exceptional persistence, and lively brisk vitality.

Jiang Mu Xiang Wudong Daan

Translated as « ginger fragrance », this wulong shows rare complexity and balance even amongst other teas of this quality. No matter where you put your nose, you breathe scents of fruits (peach, melon), blooming flowers (orchids) and baked cookies. Evolution in the mouth is remarkable, with a delicious fruity attack that develops into renewed depths. An accessible rarity with its bold and enticing flavours, subtle perfumes, creamy textures and a lively hint of acidity lingering pleasantly into the aftertaste.

2018 Travels: an unforgettable trip to the Tea Studio with Kevin Gascoyne

8 August 2018

at 20:14 by Social

MR.DARJEELING

This year Kevin visited India, Nepal and Sri Lanka between late March and mid-May. He began his annual trip in Calcutta, before heading to the Himalaya, to track down the cream lots of the First Flush Darjeeling. He then crossed the border into Nepal for a few days at Jun Chiyabari, currently one of his favourite gardens, he travelled to Puttajhora to meet the producers of the base tea for our very popular Earl Grey Classic. He then headed to Southern India to spend a couple of weeks working on our very exciting new project: the Tea Studio. His annual trip rounded off with a few producers in Sri Lanka. This year, Kevin had the pleasure to be accompanied by François-Napoléon, manager of the Quartier Latin store.

Favourite gardens

During his 6 weeks long journey, Kevin had the opportunity to visit so many beautiful gardens. Some making excellent premium teas others improving continually and one or 2 struggling to keep up. Crossing the border into Sikkim for the first time in a couple of years he visited Temi which was planted with Darjeeling plants in the 1970s and 1980s. Seeyok and Singell always interesting to visit, and great examples of a tea gardens using a biodynamic style of organ cultivation. Finally, the Thurbo, with one of the best tea makers in the region (Suman, a smiling and passionate individual), making exceptional quality again this year, under the supervision of the expert J. D Rai who does wonders creating a great working environment with optimal production in such a big garden.

THURBO

Indian Tea and Gastronomy

During their travels in India, Kevin and François-Napoléon had the chance to taste so many local specialties. One notable one was Nepalese Tonga, a fermented millet in a bamboo tube to which boiling water is added and drunk through a metal straw. A rather special experience with a full body analgesic effect! In complete contrast the Tonga was accompanied by delicious home baked pizza topped with tea leaves and a locally made Austrian-style cheese. Multicultural gastronomy at its best.

BHAJI FEUILLES DE THES

The Return to Seed

Al over the tea world producers are realizing the benefits of returning to seed cultivation as opposed to clonal propagation. Seed plants are generally more hardy and provide a more sustainable alternative to deal with the unexpected future that climate change presents.

TEA STUDIO THEIERE

The Tea Studio, a dream come true.

After many years of discussing and planning an experimental tea factory. The dream became a reality earlier this year, and Kevin finally spent a few weeks making tea in the Tea Studio, our new project in the Nilgiris, India. After many years of hard work with our Indian partners, he was quite moved to finally see the factory operational ! Kevin and François-Napoléon were able to spend time with the partners and work the machines with the crew of women from neighboring villages. This project is also setting up to raise funds to allow girls in the surrounding villages to have access to education (often reserved for the boys of the family).

Learn more about the Tea Studio project by visiting the website and read the article on our blog.

TEA STUDIO VISTA

Travels 2018: New Explorations for Hugo

1 August 2018

at 13:05 by Social

IMG_8709

For his trip to Asia this year, Hugo was accompanied by Manuel, manager of the Montreal Tearoom. During the month of March, they toured the island of Taiwan meeting various producers. They then visited South Korea a first time for Camellia Sinensis. Though for so many years we have received Korean tea samples, that didn’t fit with our collection, it is a tea region that had largely remained a mystery to us.

Taiwanese Reunion

Hugo spent most of his time this year in Lugu and Mucha. He met Mr. Gao, our Mucha Tie Guan Yin producer whose teas, produced in very small batches, are sorted manually by his daughter, his wife and his neighbour. From there they went on to visit Mr. Nen Yu, Dong Ding and Shan Li Xin producer with Leon, his son. Hugo and Manuel also shared quite a magical morning with Mr. Chang Fu Chin (our producer in Guei Fei) and his wife. It was a very special event where each participant wore an apron with the effigy of a tea and had to be “the master of that tea” serving it to the others. Surrounded by the sound of birdsong, it was a memorable experience of learning, tasting and sharing.

IMG_8674

Taste Discoveries

Hugo and Manuel then went to Mr. Chen’s home for some delicious … and some less delicious discoveries. After many years on travelling the island it is unusual to discover new teas. So it was a pleasant surprise to taste Mr. Chen’s Ying Xian, a passionate producer from a tradition of 5 generations. A low altitude wulong tea with high altitude qualities, opulent, yet affordable. A must to try!

After discovering this delicious teaHugo and Manuel were invited to Mr. Chen’s favourite restaurant to taste his favorite dish. Hugo describes the dish that arrived as a ‘generous portion of an unidentified brown jelly’. Even today, they are not sure what they ate, and perhaps it’s best kept that way;)

IMG_8732

New Explorations

For the first time Hugo explored Korea and its tea culture. An ambitious mission to visit 3 producing regions. Hugo and Manuel traveled the regions of Jeju, Hadong and Boesong producing certified organic teas for the most part. Although much of the tea industry is relatively young in Korea (40-50 years). Though we found some interesting leads that were making good quality teas we confirmed the constant tension we have always had with this region, that of the price-quality ratio. We have too many teas from other regions of superior quality for much lower prices. But having made some interesting connections it will be a region that we will continue to observe in coming years.

 
 

special collection

Welcome to the Special Collection
Here you will both find Teaware and Teas created by some of Asia’s most talented craftsmen.

Visit