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Would you pay more than $100 for 10g of tea?

18 April 2012

at 23:30 by Manuel Legault-Roy

Jun Shan Yin Zhen Yellow Tea The best known teas in China have reached excessive prices in recent years. This is especially the case for Jun Shan Yin Zhen, a yellow tea produced in very small quantities on the island of Jun Shan in Hunan Province. The island is small, bucolic and only one company is permitted to work the tea gardens.

I therefore met the team with great pleasure. The quality of their products is undeniable but the reputation of this tea, whose popularity dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and the minimal quantities produced (60 kg per year for the highest grade), make it an expensive tea. According to the price list they showed me, the tea would have sold for not less than $120 per 10g in our stores! So I had in mind to fall back on the second grade. But the team being keen to to reveal their unique product to the Canadian market have given me a discount which has reduced the selling price to around $65 / 10g. It is still extremely expensive, but this unique tea is worth its weight in gold. Its balance, delicacy and texture verging on perfection.

Will you be among of the privileged few who get their hands on some of the 500g purchased?
I sincerely hope so.

François

Kangra, North West India. News From Kevin

at 14:12 by john

Tea Plantation, Kangra
I left Kangra last week. An excellent experience in learning both for field practice, and the socio-economic dynamics of a struggling industry. First thing that struck me visiting the gardens was they are sat on a gold-mine of old, classic plants from the 1850′s to the 1880′s. Beautiful small leaf tea largely planted from seed and at altitude and with similar growing seasons and conditions to Darjeeling. Due to a long series of historical disasters, earthquakes, cholera and repeated collapse of their markets, to mention just a few, they are holding on by a thread. They are mainly surviving on the production of green tea for the Kashmir market and hard-wither orthodox to send in the Kolkata auctions. (To fill low grade Darjeeling blends…ouch). I was lucky to have been invited to give a seminar at the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology where I met a large number of the growers in one place and was really surprised at the potential some of the teas the few serious growers were making. Complex and sophisticated cups of all styles from green, wulong to black. I am working on getting a couple of teas for the list as the ones I tasted were in tiny quantities. In recent years they profiled the flavour of Kangra tea as unique and managed to acquire geographical indication. So they now have their own logo, like the other Indian regions, but no one has ever heard of them! 40% of their tea fields, which are protected by law, lay abandoned and they seem to see it as a liability rather than a legacy. Toured about 8 or 9 gardens before moving on toward Nepal…

Kevin

Tea Tasting

Jasmin in China – Guizhou, a New Province in our Selection

16 April 2012

at 0:54 by Manuel Legault-Roy

Mr Li in his garden

Second stop in China, Guizhou Province where I set foot for the first time. A part of China rich with tea. We have travelled here for years and there is still plenty to discover! The project this year was to seek out some more obscure teas and marginal growing regions. I began with the most famous tea from the province, Du Yun Mao Jian. Things got off to a great start. Passionate people, warm welcome and curious. Tea farmers growing at more than 1500m, a tiny artisianal factory and good teas! This time, there was no need to look any further as the first impressions met all my criteria for selecting a tea.

In China appearances are very important, Mr. Li has often apologized for the small size of his facilities while I was delighted by this traditional artisanal scale. Mr. Li and his wife Mrs. Chen work together in the company they founded in back 2000. They produce nearly a dozen grades of Du Yun Mao Jian and I have retained two for our 2012 selection, one of the teas is a precious small bud plus one leaf, with an entirely manual transformation that has an exquisite vegetal delicacy with a velvety texture. The second grade comes from a selection of more mature leaves and has undergone mechanical drying. Fans of Dong Shan will love this newcomer!

The second part of my visit was devoted to some completely unknown teas from Guizhou, Que She, Guiding Yun Wu and Mei Jiang Cui Pian, but after having tasted a good twenty grades of these teas as well as a copies of Bi Luo Chun, Long Jing and Anji bai cha, nothing caught my attention. So I flew to Nanjing with a memory of the traditional rusticity of Guizhou.

Next post from Jiangsu buying Yixing teapots from the potters that we work with there.

Jasmin

Jasmine in China —- The exploration for a new yellow tea and the discovery of a new green tea

9 April 2012

at 13:21 by john

Meng Ding, China
This year, my journey began in Sichuan. My first stop was Ming Shan, a small town at the foot of the mountain of Meng Ding – the terroir of one of the three Chinese yellow teas, Meng Ding Huang Ya. I had allowed only two days to explore this yellow tea and after two good days of meetings, tastings and visits to factories, I can say mission accomplished!

As I often do when exploring for a new tea, I like to meet different producers, visit different factories and taste their tea in order to “form a sense” of the tea, the grades and the possible processing techniques. After five factories visited in record time, it is finally the first factory visited that I have chosen. A lovely and tidy traditional factory, an extra warm human contact with the owner and manager of manufacturing, good teas, and, even more – which is rare in China, a preparation of green and yellow teas in a Gaiwan with unboiled water. (wow, I was quite moved!) It only remained to fix the problem of the price, which was of course, as everywhere in China, a little too expensive in relation to quality.

So I had the chance to learn about the stages of transformation of this yellow tea which undergoes two and sometimes three fermentations including one or two smothered under a wrapping of paper. The result is a tea with no bitterness, little vegetal flavour, cocoa on the nose and a sweet finish.

Even though the yellow tea Meng Ding Huang Ya is the most famous in this region, the finest tea produced and more consumed by the locals is a green tea called Meng Ding Gan Lu, of which I tasted several grades and have chosen one. Meng Ding Gan Lu will be a new green tea in our 2012 selection. A tea with a curly leaf, very vegetal and fruity, which will appeal to fans of Bi Luo Chun.

Jasmin Desharnais

News from Darjeeling

3 April 2012

at 13:27 by john

Darjeeling Spring Tea
I am preparing to leave Darjeeling town for another day in the gardens. The entire region has had no rain since October and is really dry. Cloud cover during the last couple of weeks has saved the new shoots from burning but the quantities in all gardens are between 40% and 50% that of last year. Another week or two without water and the plants will move into ‘banjhi’ or dormancy. After each growing season they will do this naturally, a release of hormones within the plant will stop the ‘growth mode’ and the plant will save its recuperate before the rains that bring on the Second Flush. So a short and light season is starting to look inevitable. But the growers are philosophical about the situation, doing the best they can to adapt their manufacturing techniques for the leaves coming in from the garden, leaves with a much lower water content than usual.

Unlike some other ‘bad years’ of drought or sunless-cold the quality is high. I have tasted some outstanding teas in the last week. The theory of high performance under stress has been mention many times during my conversations with the growers.

This morning my first stop is Aloobari (means potato field) of ethno-botanical interest as they have the oldest plants in the Darjeeling region.

Ganesh

More to come…

Kevin

PS. The evening of April 3rd the heavens above Darjeeling opened and it rained constantly all night. Darjeeling land of the thunderbolt back in business.

 
 

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