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

22 October 2018

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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;)

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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.

China: Tips that will make for a memorable trip

29 July 2018

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With its many landscapes and cultural wonders, needless to say China is a unique destination. Since 2003, both Francois and Jasmin have been exploring China and its great tea gardens and have put together some suggestions for a memorable trip:

Let go and live it to the fullest

If it’s your first time in China, Francois Marchand strongly suggests to let go and be open minded. China is a huge country whose culture is very different from ours: thousands of years of history parallel to ours. So you can expect the unexpected: plans that don’t follow through but also some wonderful surprises. Truth be told, it’s by letting you that you can stumble on what’s wonderful about China. Often, it is by resisting the local culture that you can actually have a very negative experience. After all, travelling is about discovering new things, isn’t it?

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An authentic tea house experience

As you can imagine, there are many different tea houses in any major city and that’s why you should probably avoid the ones in touristic areas. They’re likely overpriced and less authentic. Jasmin suggests to rather look into visiting a tea store where you can discuss with the locals and probably try some of their favourite gems.

Tea garden visit

Tea gardens are quite accessible in China so you shouldn’t worry about visiting without an appointment. While Long Jing is a lovely village with great infrastructures and facilities it’s also very touristic. Its prices are a bit over the average and some of the teas may not be locally sourced but in terms of gardens, it’s definitely worth a look.

Other recommendations: Huang Shan (2h by train from Shanghai), Tangkou village or Junshan island in the Hunan province (where you can find find crops of the very famous and expensive Jun Shan Yin Zhen). Also it’s quite the boat ride.

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The price of tea in China can greatly vary. Obviously, if you buy from the producer it’ll be less expensive than the reseller. Oddly enough, the cost of tea in big cities such as Beijing or Shanghai is similar to the price we pay here. Unbelievable, but true! Thanks to our strong relations built over decades and the quantity that we buy, we can often resell the teas at less than what the locals can purchase themselves! Bottom line: if you like the taste of the tea and you enjoy the company of the person who’s selling it to you – if the price seems right to you, then those should be the only criterias.

India: Kevin gives us a great vintage of Jun Chiyabari

18 July 2018

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Népal Jun Chiyabari Yabukita bio. édition spéciale

One of the industry’s most recognized Nepali gardens these days is Jun Chiyabari. They are hard to beat. The garden was planted with small plots of various cultivars, making each tea they make a unique blend. It comes as no surprise that this is currently one of Kevin’s favourite gardens, and he selected an exceptional batch from them during his 2018 spring travels.

A truly rare and unique tea

When Bachan Gwayali and his brother Lochan planted Jun Chiyabari, high on the valley slopes they chose to grow some curious tea plants. One was the well-known Japanese cultivar Yabukita. They dedicated a tiny plot to the Yabukita, it is very unusual for it to be growing at 1900m altitude. Instead of the traditional production of Yabukita, which uses steam, this tea is handcrafted with dry heat in Jun Chiyabari’s small machines.

Batch J-21 is a prime example of experimentation and originality. With its unique flavour profile, Kevin could not resist buying the full 400g of this grand cru for you to discover it!

The first infusion reveals a delicate attack, surprising for Jun Chiyabari teas, many of their teas explode on the mouth. The Yabukita makes a gentle entrance, without rushing through the taste buds, with a thicker and creamier liquor. As you continue to infuse the aromas expand in the centre of the mouth (fresh corn, spinach, muscatel, melon) building up to a an prolonged bold finish that seductively lingers for an unexpected time.

A truly rare tea that will be available online only for a very limited time.

Travels 2018: Central China with Francois

6 July 2018

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François travelled around China with a very special guest this year. From April 8th until the 26th, he had the special company of Leika, his 11-year-old daughter. If you haven’t had the chance to follow some of their wacky photos and videos on our social media yet, here is an overview of their trip.

Some travel updates

François and Leika visited Mr. Pan for the first time, in She Xian County, located in a small mountain village (2 hours drive from Huangshan). They were impressed to see Mr. Pan still performs his own manual transformation over a wood fire, alongside his wife who takes care of the harvesting. A small but dedicated team, producing a maximum of 1kg per day.

His Ding Gu Da Fang caught their attention, and will be added it to the catalogue this year. A tea that will appeal to all Long Jing fans both in both its form and taste.

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Playing Favourites

Wei Shan Mao Jian is back this year with its organic certification. Although Mr. Wang’s garden has technically been organic for many years now, he had to get it re-approved following certification changes in China – a process that took over 2 years. We are very happy to make it official. A lovely tea with notes of green vegetables, butter and wildflowers. Sublime!

As Francois was doing some comparative tasting with the Wei Shan Mao Jian, he fell for the Grade 1 and bought a micro-lot, just this year.

Objects and Accessories

Francois and Leika then spent time with one of our favorite potters, Mrs. Zhang who is currently working on a two new teapots to arrive this fall. One is a as well as on a larger format that we all loved.

Fun fact: Mrs. Zhang did not study porcelain- it was following her advertising studies that she headed to Jingdezhen and chose to settle down there. She specializes in overseeing the design of the objects while her partner takes care of the technical side. She draws her inspiration from the shapes and colours of the natural world.

Camellia Sinensis Award for Excellence

Mr. Ye, our Tai Ping Hou Kui producer, was the proud recipient of the ‘Camellia Sinensis Award for Excellence’ this year. François and Leika had the pleasure of presenting it to him in person. They also had the pleasure of seeing his 10-year-old son, whom François has seen growing up over the years, ever since the day he was born.

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Honorable Mentions

The Lu An Gua Pian and the Yong Xi Huo Qing are both exquisite this year!

2018 Travels, from East to West China with Jasmin Desharnais

16 June 2018

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After 16 years of annual buying in China, Jasmin chose a very diversified itinerary this time around. During the month of April, he began further North focussing on accessories and teaware before heading East in search of the Spring highlights of various regions in their green, white, wulong and black teas.
An Early Season

Following a hot and rainy early Spring in China, the 2018 harvest season came 7-15 days early resulting in a yield increase of +/- 15% and a consequent, lack of workers in some of the gardens to harvest the crop.

Conversely, the April 8th low temperatures in the eastern part of the country brought frost damage in some of the gardens. Very special attention was needed as Jasmin tasted the teas the next day, April 9th … they were delicious! The thermal shock had stimulated the aromatic chemistry in the leaves very favourably and he selected a few teas from this precious harvest such as Long Jing Bai Ye and Huiming.

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Discover the Tea Studio

Jasmin also had the objective this year of introducing the Tea Studio, our new project in India, to his producer and tea institute friends in China. The diversity of Chinese teas is such that they rarely get to drink teas from other countries. So Jasmin had a lot of fun telling them about our project, and having Chinese tea friends taste our first 4 teas.

Mr. He, a Chinese producer with whom we have been collaborating for 14 years, will visit the Tea Studio between October 4th and 9th. We are very excited to welcome him! He will be helping train the Indian team to refine their green tea production.
The Taster Develops his Skills

As you may know, 2018 already marks the 20 years of existence of Camellia Sinensis. Having spent 20 years as a taster and buyer, Jasmin is now looking forward to acquiring a more multidisciplinary expertise in the tea industry. In coming years he will increasingly focus on the processing of tea and scientific research. More than ever, he wants to get his “hands dirty”. To this end he will set up his future trips slightly differently. Aside from his buying he will select a few producers where he will spend a little more time to deepen very specific areas of his knowledge for a longer period.
His 2018 Highlight

This year, our Long Jing Jingning Bai was Jasmin’s favourite. A green tea with such rich flavours of flowers and fresh hazelnut.

China: Francois brings back an exceptional tea!

11 June 2018

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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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