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News of Josiane, François and Jasmine – Spring Tea 2011 (China)

27 April 2011

at 14:56 by François Alexis Roy

round table

From Josiane on tour with our tasters….

After about a 15 hour flight, François, Jasmine and I set foot on Chinese soil. First destination, Shanghai, to meet the winners of the ‘Grand Guignole’ fund-raiser, Andrew and Anne, who won the prize of accompanying us for part of our journey.

Thursday morning in the tea market we finally taste our first tea, Anxi Tie Guan Yin prepared by a trader from his kiosk. Tea aside, there were also many accessories, teapots of all kinds from traditional Chinese styles to objects of such beauty!

Later, we headed to Bi Luo Chun. Arriving in Dong Shan, we met Mr. Liu our grower of Bi Luo Chun, what a beautiful location. Friday was the purchase of our first Chinese tea of the year. Television cameras were waiting for us in the tea museum of Mr. Liu and followed us through the day to spread the news of our arrival.

Jasmin was the star and he played his role well, with much previous experience. We were more like extras accompanying Jasmin on his great adventure. Finally, after this media circus, we were able to move onto the tasting of Bi Luo Chun. After several tastings and negotiations, Jasmin settled on what will be our Bi Luo Chun of 2011.

The transaction complete, we continue Hangzhou.

Saturday morning, destination Long Jing! A grower of simplicity and a friendly family waiting for us. We followed the traditional processing of Long Jing and tasted some freshly made leaf. Afterwards, a dinner with the family where I had my first full chicken head in a bowl (which I did not manage to eat)

(Note from François: it’s not because she didn’t try!).

The next day Jasmine went his way for buying in other regions and we drove to the sacred mountains of Huang Shan.

Josiane Monette
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Project Himalaya-Japan 2011 Part 2

26 April 2011

at 16:34 by john

Our exchange project between the Japanese, Nepalese and Indian tea producers has been a great success, above all my expectations….

Once installed we spent the night visiting the large factory of the ‘Nepal Small Tea Farmers’ as the fresh leaf, collected the previous day, withered in the troughs. As early morning came the leaf was passed to the rollers and through the rest of the manufacturing process. From the outset the questions were flowing and the pens scribbling noting all the most minute details of this industrial scale operation. The enthusiasm of our visitors was both refreshing and contagious.

The tiny factory in Fikkal, just 15minutes drive, was set up as an experimental project to produce green tea. A small building was built back in 1999 and fitted with small Japanese machines to produces high quality Nepalese teas for the speciality market. This tiny operation is now set up to produce green, white, black and Oolong teas. Due to the fact that this factory was specifically designed for making small batches of experimental quality teas, it fitted with Mr.Iwata’s usual scale of operation, we would end up spending most of our time there.

The Darjeeling clones being used here, coupled with the Himalayan growing conditions, make for a very different leaf stock to that usually used in Japan with these machines. With all this in mind we were hoping to improve the green tea process here with Mr.Iwata’s generations of finely tuned tea farming experience and the in-depth scientific knowledge of Mr.Takeda. At the same time Mr.Iwata has been trying to make black teas back in Japan for almost ten years and had many questions for our Indian expert JP as to how his process could be refined. It was impressive to see how humble about their tea problems each was and generous to share as much information as possible in return.

For a few days we made black tea in the morning and green tea in the afternoon. Any time in between was used to taste and analyse the teas we had made and the many other samples we had all brought with us, discuss machine adjustment and maintenance and field technicalities. Plus of course drinking gallons of tea. Despite the one-track subject matter and intensity, the atmosphere remained light hearted and jovial throughout. To remain sane we imposed what we called the ‘15 minute rule’ where every 2-3 hours we had to talk about something unrelated to tea, this probably helped.

Mr.Takeda, our plant developer, had brought 15 plants with him of a clone he had personally developed called Okumidori. This plant is a hybrid of the Yabukita and Shizu Zai 16 and was bred to have a high resistance to cold and harsh conditions. He thought it would do well here and eventually give a good leaf for green tea. The project had previously tried some traditional Yabukita plants from Japan but they had all but perished so the gift was warmly welcomed. We each planted one and I am already looking forward to checking their progress on my next visit…..

Leaving Nepal we all drove down to the plains and into Dooars one of India’s lesser known tea growing regions. Mr.Takeda had requested a visit to a CTC factory to film some footage for a Japanese TV archive. So we had set up a visit to the Leech River Plantation……
To be continued in Kevin’s next blog….

See also Project Himalaya-Japan 2011 Part 1

Project Himalaya-Japan 2011 Part 2, image1

Project Himalaya-Japan 2011 Part 2, image2

Project Himalaya-Japan 2011 Part 2, image3

Project Himalaya-Japan 2011 Part 2, image4

Project Himalaya-Japan 2011 Part 1

10 April 2011

at 15:49 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…. Project Himalaya-Japan 2011 Part 2

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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News from Japan

7 April 2011

at 8:30 by François Alexis Roy

Japanese Tea Garden 2011

For several weeks, we have been communicating with our tea growers in Japan by email and telephone. We thought we’d let you know what is happening now, especially as regards the impact on future crops.

The families and friends of our producers are safe and none of them have undergone physical damage (gardens, equipment, etc..). This is already good news. With regard to levels of radiation, no area of production where we buy leaf is affected by radioactivity control measures. Currently, only the following areas are affected: Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Miyagi, Yamagata, Niigata, Nagano, Yamanashi, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba.

Shizuoka Prefecture is located more than 400km from the nuclear plant in Fukushima. Uji and Nara are located at more than 700km. Miyasaki? More than 1000km. For now, our producers assure us that they have received no information from government bodies or associations of tea producers to the effect that there might be any health hazard for future harvests, which begin late April or early May, depending on the region.

However, many of our producers have already committed to provide us with certificates of radiation analysis from their gardens to reassure us and our customers. From our side we are working to establish a protocol to test the tea when it arrives at our warehouse.

We are closely monitoring the situation.

Hugo is also in Japan from May 12 to 20 to meet our producers and he will keep us updated.

Want to help the Japanese by making a donation? Here are some useful links:

www.redcross.org

www.unicef.ca

www.care.org

Arigato !

Hugo Américi
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