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Creators of tea

20 June 2013

at 10:06 by Seb

After more than ten years (twenty years for Kevin!) of travelling in tea producing countries, our vision of tea is permeated by diversity. We often share teas from other countries with producers and discuss their varied production techiques

One of our Chinese producers showing more interest in this global diversity than most is Mr. He, the producer of our Huiming in Jingning, Zhejiang Province. In 2012, Jasmin challenged him to make a white tea for us and Mr. He successfully produced a small batch of exclusive Jingning Yin Zhen. The challenge for 2013 was to merge the genres, mix cultures and create a black tea in the style of a First Flush Darjeeling. Jasmin and Kevin gave much thought on how to produce this tea before sending Mr. He the parameters for its production.

Step One: Choice of cultivar

Mr. He’s cultivars are primarily for making green tea, very different from those used in Darjeeling. Our first challenge was to select one of the of the eight cultivars that Mr. He has in his gardens. We chose the Huiming cultivar, for its structure and since Mr. He had already made a Huiming Hong Cha in 2010, we found it to be the most appropriate for the manufacture of the First Flush Darjeeling style. We asked Mr. He to fine pluck it: two leaves and a bud.

Step Two: Transformation parameters.

Huiming 1st flush from Mr.He.

With April weather conditions very different between Darjeeling and Jingning we had to take into account differences in temperature and humidity in adjusting the parameters. Considering that much of Darjeeling is over 2000m and the factory of M. He is only at 500m, we favoured a slightly less severe withering than Darjeeling asking Mr. He to remove 60% of the moisture from the leaves before a long, light roll with very little pressure on the leaves. After rolling a short oxidation of only 15 minutes before drying for 20 min at 120 degrees.

Mr. He produced two different batches and was very proud to present these two Huiming Darjeelings to Jasmin during his last visit to Jingning in April.

We are proud to present this tea created by our tasters and Mr. He. Only 4kg, which will be online and in stores this Friday!

 

Malawi

12 June 2013

at 23:56 by Seb

Alexander Kay at Satemwa

It has been over 15 years since I last visited Malawi but the country looked very similar.    My first mission was to find some old tea plants that were planted back in the 1880s from seeds sent from England’s Kew Gardens to the Blantyre Mission. Two remaining specimens of Africa’s oldest plants were rumoured to be still growing here. To my disappointment they had been uprooted only 2 years ago to make way for the corner of a corn field.

Throughout the Chombe region the hills are covered in the tea fields of large estates.  The region, as is the case in most of Malawi, is poor, uneducated and economically depressed.  The tea estates are mostly owned by big companies with a focus on inexpensive, low grade CTC for the blending market.  Arriving in Satemwa Tea Estate, was quite a contrast!  Lush, green and very well organized.  The Kay family arrived here from Scotland 3 generations ago. Alexander Kay, now in charge, is a highly educated and passionate agronomist.  Aside from their big bread winning CTC operation he has been experimenting with other forms of plant breeding and speciality manufacture.

Driving through Satemwa’s valleys Alexander shows me indigenous reforestation and habitat preservation projects as well as around 60 experimental clones that he is growing with more fancy flavours in mind.  Their assamica plants grow up to one inch per day here in peak season!  So high quality is very difficult, though not impossible.   The whole estate is very well structured and the garden boasts all different forms of Fair Trade and social responsibility certification.  The teas in tasting show great potential and together in the last weeks we have been looking in to some small machines for a new speciality tea department in the factory through my contacts in India.

As yet the White Tea we have just added to our catalogue is Satemwa’s best, with a fascinating and very distinct flavour profile, but there is great potential and I intend to follow the progress as he experiments with wulongs and orthodox black teas with his new equipment.

A visit to the Tea Research Institute of Malawi in Mulanje confirmed the possibilities of local china clones with more complex flavour profiles that could also be used for such teas.

Each growing region I visited in Africa this year confirmed my theory that there was great, as yet untapped, cultivar and terroir potential for premium and original whole leaf teas in this beautiful continent.

Kevin

Carmen Abdallah, The Essence of the Medium.

2 June 2013

at 20:27 by Seb

Carmen Abdallah removing pieces form her oven!

The pricinpal focus of Carmen Abdallah is on the production of pieces for the art of tea. This choice was inspired by her three year stay in the south of Japan (2002-2005). The function and aesthetics she gives to her works is inspired by the knowledge she gained during her ceramics training in Japan. Her work on the glaze and shape makes every Carmen Abdallah piece unique and, nevertheless, retaining the characteristic style of the artist.

Bowls.Carmen Abdallah works the red and white clays that she turns on an electric or foot powered turntable. She carves, reshapes and modifies the symmetrical forms to make them more spontaneous and organic. Her glazes are inspired by traditional Japanese recipes, containing a large amount of wood ash. She fires her pieces in an electric furnace or oven.

In 2010, Carmen Abdallah returned to Japan and learned how to build an Anagama style wood oven. Ever since then, she fires her pieces in the oven she built in Quebec. Regarding this process, Carmen says: “This method fascinates me and I am deeply focused on the effects of ash and flame in such a firing. It gives good results from melted wood ash on the pieces which looks like glass. This process makes each piece even more unique, and even heroic, to have faced and survived such heat and atmosphere for 24 hours or more. ”

Carmen Abdallah is a member of the potters collective KAO, a boutique gallery in Val-David and assists in the coordination of the annual exhibition 1001 Pots. She also teaches pottery forming to primary school students at Steiner-Waldorf school in Val-Morin. In 2012 she received the first prize Chawan awarded by the Urasenke tea ceremony school in Montreal.

LOCAL POTTERS

Meet the Quebec artisans who are passionate about the objets and art of tea. Every two months, pieces by a different designer will be presented in this unique showcase, giving you the chance to enjoy the great quality and diversity of the work of some of our local potters.

 
 

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