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A Meeting with Mr Chen Nen Yu – Tea Grower

30 November 2011

at 16:19 by john

An excerpt from the newly published English translation of our prize-winning best-seller:
TEA: History, Terroirs, Varieties

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Mr. Chen Nen Yu is a tea grower in the district of Nantou, Taiwan.

Mr. Nen Yu
What lead you to work in the world of tea?
How and when did you begin? Do you come from a tea-growing family tradition?

I was born into a family of tea growers. Both my grandfather and my father were growers. I learned from them how to cultivate tea, to manage a garden and to process the leaves. I also received state-sponsored training in the tea industry. It has now been 17 years since I took over the family business.
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Do you have a large tea garden? How big is it?

My tea garden covers 2 hectares [5 acres].
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How much tea do you produce annually?
Do you have employees?

I produce about 5,000 kilos [11,023 pounds] of tea per year. In addition to the 30 pickers that I need during harvest time, I have 3 full-time employees who take care of the garden and five other seasonal employees who work in the processing plant.
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Do you have your own store to sell your tea?
No, I don’t.
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To whom do you sell your tea? To the local or international market?

I sell most of my tea on the local market.
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What kind of tea do you produce?

I produce Qing Shin wulong tea in Lugu as well as a little Jin Shuan. I also have two gardens in Shan Lin Xi.
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Have you noticed changes in the industry and in your clientele since you started out?

Yes, in my father’s and grandfather’s time, the garden was small, the business was small, salaries were lower and almost all production was done by hand. Now we have high-tech equipment that allows us to manage a bigger garden and produce a lot more tea. The tendency in the industry now is toward specialization in a specific area, either cultivation, processing or trading tea.
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Travel notes from Jasmin in Mengku

19 November 2011

at 14:02 by john

I just arrived in Shuan Jiang after a beautiful visit to the rural area of Mengku with the Li family of the Bulang tribe. Unusually, they make both Mao cha and press their own cakes.
 M Li in the shade of an ancient tree
Most of the people living in the hills produce Mao cha and then sells it to a second party who will press and market it, Mr. Li went to Yiwu to learn the craft of pressing the tea into cakes. It is refreshing to see the Bulang people in the hills taking the manufacture into their own hands and profiting from the final sale of their teas. Too often the Pu Er that the tribal people sell at a very low price will be sold to buyers who take them to the market place and make most of the profit.

Their was one disagreeable factor in this visit to Mengku however. As the Mengku teas have such strong reputation we must now reserve our leaves in advance for the following year! Though it was a bumper crop and more cakes were produced than ever the demand is higher than the production. Our order is already placed for next Spring!
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Leaves being steamed before pressing into Pu Er cakes
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Jasmin Desharnais
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From Jasmin in Hong Kong this week ……

15 November 2011

at 13:48 by john

Hong Kong
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‘Leaving Hong Kong having met with some of the big names in the Pu Er business there, all had the same thing to say: Continental China’s demand for aged Pu Er is rapidly increasing both the prices and the level of counterfeit. Sales have never been so good and availability is the biggest problem.
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Tea Tasting Arrangement, Hong Kong 2011
One good example of this folly is the famous 1988 Qing Bing Menghai 7542 of Vesper Chan, one of the first dealers to favour dry storage. In less than 2 years the price for one cake rose from18 000HK$ à 35 000HK$ that’s over CDN$4500! Despite this extremely inflated price M.Chen has to limit the quantity of cakes per client and of course presented with such a limitation the clients offer to pay more.

Amazing to think that less than a year ago we had a 1974 Menghai 74342 on sale at less than $1125 for the equivalent weight and clients found it pricey!!

I won’t even mention the price of this cake in the picture from 1900.’
Pu Er cake from 1900 A.D.

Jasmin Desharnais
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A Meeting with Mr. Kavi Seth, an Industry Professional

1 November 2011

at 19:01 by john

An excerpt from the newly published English translation of our prize-winning best-seller:
Thé: Histoire, Terroir, Saveurs
Available in the coming weeks.

Kavi Seth is the head taster for J. Thomas, India’s most important tea broker in Kolkata.

Kavi Seth, the head taster for J. Thomas tea broker, India

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How long have you been working in the tea industry?

I began working in the tea industry in August 1985.
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What brought you to this line of work?

In the beginning, when I was finishing my studies at the college of New Delhi, I knew nothing about the workings of the tea market. However, one of my uncles was a general manager with J. Thomas & Company Private Limited, and he invited me to join the company.
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What are your everyday responsibilities?

The work of a taster may appear monotonous, but it is up to each of us to make it interesting.We must taste and evaluate the teas, attend the auctions, collect information about the market and interact with the buyers and sellers.
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What challenges will the Indian tea industry need to meet in the years to come?

Over the past few years, the tea industry has experienced a steep drop in prices because of inflation in the Indian economy. Fortunately, 2008 was a good year and prices reached record highs. The major challenge for our industry is to re-establish a strong presence on the export market,
which has been declining for several years now.
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What is your favorite tea?

A second harvest from Darjeeling, for its unique muscat grape characteristic.
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How would you define a good tea?

For me, not only does a good tea look good, it tastes good and can be kept for a long time.
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What do you like best about your profession?

The auctions! Even if it is sometimes mentally and physically exhausting. Also, the fact that every tea is different, especially the Darjeeling teas.There can be an enormous price difference between the batches.
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