Tasters

François Marchand

Central China 2016

Central China 2015

Central China 2014

Central China 2013

Central China 2012

Central China 2011

Central China 2010

Central China 2009

Central China 2016

This year was François 10th buying and research trip to China. He was accompanied by Vincent ( with Camellia Sinensis since 2010) They visited the provinces of Guangdon, Anhui, Jiangxi and Hunan. One of this year's highlights was meeting Ye Juan, a ceramic painter, Me. Ye's Taiping Hou Kui Lao Cong as well as the yellow teas: Wei Shan Huang Cha and Huo Shan Huang Cha.

Central China 2015

François presents his selection of 2016 favourites from his tour around the provinces of Jiangxi, Anhui and Henan. His packed itinerary led him to some exceptional potters, notably in Jingdezhen, and some newly discovered tea producers in far off rural regions. His highlights: Hong Xiang Luo, Yong Xi Huo Qing and Lu An Guan Pian.

Central China 2014

Here's the resumee of my last trip in China in a few pictures. Many new places, new faces and mostly, many great discoveries.

Central China 2013

My journey in 2013 promised to be different from previous years in that the focus would not only be tea but also teaware. For some years now, we have been developing our involvement in tea objects with the same approach of well developed relationships that we have with the producers of fresh leaf. My itinerary was packed with garden tours, meeting potters and even visiting factories for our packaging.

The journey began smoothly, on familiar ground in Huang Shan, a place I have visited for the past 7 years for the Tai Ping Hou Kui and Huang Shan Mao Feng, before moving on to Jingdezhen. The city of Jiangxi has been recognized for centuries as the capital of porcelain. Famous for Blue China style fine porcelain. This city also has the largest ceramics university in China (and probably in the world). I wanted to find some traditional porcelain but also something with a little more modern style and I was not disappointed. There are hundreds, even thousands of shops, booths, artisans. Though the quality and originality was not all exceptional, after three days of exploration I made contact with two young artisans, Yang Zhe and Zhang Zhen Chun who create tea ceramics in a unique and contemporary style. I also found a company that has an impressive collection of very refined pieces in the classic style. I will certainly return in 2014 ...

Back to the world of tea, passing through Lushan, I searched for a new producer of Fu Zhuan, the aged tea from Hunan. This adventure began in Yi Yang, at the tea market, before moving on to Anhua, the original Fu Zhuan terroir. The legendary Hunan Tea Road begins here it was used for many years for transport to Tibet and Russia.  China has               several tea of these roads, the most important and famous starts in Yunnan.  I met Mr. He, a passionate artisan producer with whom I had much in common in regards to our philosophy of tea. After visiting his gardens and factories, he accompanied me around the ancient villages along the old tea road. A very pleasant journey back in time. To top it off, he introduced me to one of his friends who has written two books about aged teas. An old Chinese man whose house looks like a museum where there is a panoply of old objects, primarily tea related. I am planning to reserve more time to go deeper into this marvellous universe in my next visit ...

To conclude this tour, I visited two companies that produce packaging, dedicated mainly to tea. It is as essential to know the people and working conditions of those we deal with for teaware and packaging as it is to know the people behind each of our unique teas.

The finale chapter was Hong Kong where I joined my colleagues Jasmin and Sebastian. We explored the world of Pu Er, with, among others, Mr. Vesper Chang, a connoisseur and highly colourful, passionate personality.  A leading authority in the world of Pu er, with whom we had a memorable time.

 

 

Central China 2012

Preparations for my annual voyage are often a complex puzzle. My specific objectives, selected artisans to visit and then link it all together with the itinerary usually packed into a short time. Choosing is made more difficult by having to exclude good friends that I have known for years. So this year I had to leave outTaiping Hou KuiHuang Shan Mao Feng and Huo Shan Huang Ya to name but a few. However the prospect of meeting the producers of Fu Zhuan, leJuan Shan Yin Zhen and a company that are developing a High quality project in organic Fair Trade manufacture were all very exciting.

So this April I arrived in Changsha, Hunan Province, where I spent my first days tracking down an aged tea typical to this region, rich with history. The Fu Zhuan of 2010 that I bought is rich and dark shou style (though the terms sheng and shou are not generally used in this area) .

Next to I movved on to Yue Yang a town on the banks of Lake Dong Ting, in the middle of which the celebrated Island of Jun Shan is found. This Island produces one of China's most famous teas, the rare and delicate Yellow Tea the Jun Shan Yin Zhen. For the first time since 2008 (my first visit to Yue Yang) I toured the the Island with a team of select producers, the only authorized company to transform these rare leaves. Due to the reputation of the tea there are many producers offering 'Jun Shan Yin Zhen' around the edges of Dong Ting Lake, but none have the growing conditions of the Island with its clean, humid air, and tree-covered plantations etc. and that's before metioning the know-how involved in the manufacture. So I was Lucky to tour the Island with these passionate enthusiasts who rather than bragging about quality, confidently let the subtle, authentique aromas do the talking. There was no resisting a lot from 60kg of the highest grade from the first leaves of the season. A rare jewel worthy of Emperors and worthy of its reputation.

I then left Hunan province for Wuhan the capital of the Province of Hubei. In Wuhan I squeezed an extra visit, at the last minute, to a company producing organic Fair Trade teas. It was a revelation! In general Cinese organic or Fair Trade teas are of a more industrial quality for packaged products. But this team was a different story all together. They were producing teas of outstanding quality. I was particularly charmed by theirEnshi Long JingLu Zhen and Yunnan Yin Zhen, all organic and Fair Trade. I will be sure to spend some time in their plantations next year to see the plants and their community projects.

Next stop was a Producer of Xin Yang Mao Jian, both delicious and affordable, then on to Lu Shan source of the Lu Shan Yun Wu. From there on to Wuzhou to consolidate some links with producers of Liu Bao that I had met last year. Here I found the Liu Bao 1996, another gem, very affordable and an excellent quality for its age.

This marvellous journey finished with a quick stop in Hong Kong where I visited some specialists in aged teas one with a spectacular view over the bay from the 32nd floor of a building on Causeway Bay.

Central China 2011

In 2011 trip to Asia was significantly different to previous years. Firstly, Josiane, one of my colleagues from Montreal, accompanied me for my three weeks in China, and, for the first 10 days, I was a travel guide for the prizewinners of the 2010 Fund Raiser the 'Grande Guignolée'. Their external perspective reminded me of what fascinates me in this country full of contrasts: the uniqueness of our relationship with the people and the privilege of seeing China by way of the cultivation of tea, so rich in history and flavor, details that can sometimes be less obvious or forgotten without this stimulus and external perspective.

From the point of view of tea, the trip started well in the area of Hangzhou where Long Jing is produced . For our second day in the region, we had the great privilege of meeting Mr. Lu who has won national awards for best manual transformation. We tasted a tea he had made, literally the best Long Jing of our lives! After Hangzhou, we left Jasmin to head for Anhui Province where Huang Shan Mao Feng and Taiping Hou Kui are produced. The latter tea, produced in a village accessible only by boat was the highlight of our stay with Anne and Andrew. I had reserved my favorite spot in China for them. However, I was surprised by a crowd of dozens of country folk since I have always been alone on this magical boat ride. I must say I became disappointed and nostalgic to think that my corner of paradise had been discovered. we then realized that it was the gang of pluckers who were arriving in the village for the very beginning of the harvest season. Phew!

With a twinge of regret we said goodbye to Anne and Andrew - throughout the journey they had always been enjoyable and stimulating company. Josiane and I continued onto the terroirs where Lan Xiang, Lu An Gua Pian, and Huo Shan Huang Ya are produced

For the last week of this tea voyage, we did a little exploration of Hunan province, where we found the Wei Shan Mao Jian organic, an excellent and lively tea which is very affordable for the quality. Then we flew to Guangxi, where we waited for Daniel, an American resident of Liu Bao in China for 7 years who is passionate about aged tea. With him we met Mr. Su, owner of the only large factory in the village of Liu Bao itself, which produces tea made in the traditional way. So we now have three new teas from this place, teas that enchanted me with their flavors, authenticity and the passion of the people who made them.

I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, say that this was the year when I rediscovered the China that I love.

Central China 2010

First stop on this year’s tour was the town of Xin Yang home of the Xin Yang Mao Jian.  Here I met Mr.Huang and Mrs.Li, two producers that I had met last year. Just a few minutes after my arrival I was tasting Spring tea!  I had two styles to chose from, both very interesting.  I decided to go with a similar quality to the 2009, a little more expensive this year due to a loss in production as we have seen all over China this year.  Once the tasting was finished we left the office for a garden visit.

The next day I met Mr.Cheng, producer of the Huo Shan Huang Ya.  Before visiting the garden and tasting the teas he took me to a 3-hour outdoor show, in the rain!  Later I warmed up while selecting the teas and had a nice warm supper with the family.

From Hefei, capital of Anhui I headed for the village of Jing Xian.  Here I was going to meet a producer I had met 3 years previously to check out his Yong Xi Huo Qing, a tea I was happy to re-integrate into the catalogue.  The same producer manufactures the Lan Xiang using completely different transformation techniques.

After a brief visit to the village of Jin Xian I arrived in my favourite region: Huang Shan where I tasted some excellent Mao Fengs.  The following morning I had arranged to meet up with Jasmin and Alexis We were to take the magical trip to the beautiful, elusive gardens of Taiping Hou Kui.  These producers are in a hidden valley that is only accessible by boat.  Aside from the picturesque setting the teas are delicious.  This year I managed to pick up a better grade of Hou Kui than last year for a very reasonable price.

My next stop was the small village of Wuyuan where I bought the Zi Mei then on to another favourite place, the mountain of Lushan.  Having selected the Lushan Yun Wu I headed for the capital of Hunan; Changsha to explore the region in more depth and to visit the producers of the famous yellow tea- Junshuan Yin Zhen.  I finally managed to get some photos of the unusual process of manufacturing yellow tea.  Before leaving Changsha I visited the Hunan Tea Research Institute.  Here they were developing several very interesting teas such as the Gao Qiao Yun Feng, to be found in our selection this year.  I had the chance to visit the labs where the Institute carries out much of its experimental research and the nurseries where they are experimenting with various styles of garden practice and different cultivars.  Among the young plants they were studying were some Japanese Yabukita and a large amount of the Bai Ye, the plant from Anji that is taking the Chinese market by storm.  I look forward to future research visits to the Institute.

Before leaving Changsha I visited the Hunan Tea Research Institute.  Here they were developing several teas such as the Gao Qiao Yun Feng, to be found in our selection this year.
I had the chance to visit the factory where the Institute carries out much of its experimental research and the nurseries where they are experimenting with various styles of garden practice and different cultivars.  Among the young plants they were studying were some Japanese Yabukita and a large amount of the Bai Ye, the plant from Anji that is taking the Chinese market by storm.  I look forward to future research visits to the Institute.

Central China 2009

For a fourth consecutive year François travelled through the Provinces of Anhui, Henan, Jiangxi and Hunan. This year, he returned with the principal aim of solidifying connections made during his previous visits. One new region was on the agenda however, Lushan mountain in the Jiangxi region.

It had been a particularly good Spring for most of China. Our two "grands crus" from the region of Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain), the Huang Shan Mao Feng and Tai Ping Hou Kui were no exception. François started his tour here with two of his favourite producers Mr.Xie (Huang Shan Mao Feng) and Mr.Ye (Tai Ping Hou Kui) Both producers offered teas greatly superior to those of previous years.

Continuing his travels toward the town of Wuyuan to find Mr.Li, producer of Wuyuan Zi Mei. Mr.Li gave a warm welcome, good tea and offered François a ride to his next destination, Jiujiang 3 hours from Wuyuan.

It was from Jiujiang that he traveled to Lushan mountain, a splendid region protected by UNESCO. The village, partly built by europeans has a unique mixture of architecture and stunning views of the surrounding mountains, Jiujiang town and the mighty Yangtze river. Aside from the spectacular setting, François bought some Lu Shan Yun Wu grown at 1000m ASL quite rare in this part of China.

On to Xin Yang where François met with producers of Xin Yang Mao Jian, Mr.Huang and his wife. The Huangs, third generation tea producers were welcoming and revealed a Mao Jian of great quality at a very reasonable price.

Huo Shan was François' last stop firstly visiting Mr.Chang for his excellent Huo Shan Huang Ya and Lu An Gua Pian. Then to finish this marvellous journey in style, he attended the wedding of Anron his translator for the region. A perfect way to explore China's culture in more depth.

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