China: definitely not the Evil Empire of Tea
For the last twenty years we have been talking to clients about China the Motherland of Tea, their questions and concerns. China's development has been impressive over the last 15 years. We'd like to take a few moments to share our views on some of the issues.
As you know, our expert tasters visit The Middle Kingdom each and every spring to meet producers and to ensure the quality of the gardens and their product. It puts us in the fortunate position of having a clear yearly picture of the Chinese tea industry and their evolution over the last couple of decades.
China tea did have a little trouble with its priorities back in the 1990s. There are still tea drinkers out there with strong opinions about Chinese teas based on those now distant years. But it is safe to say that since then, the mentality has shifted and evolved in China. This has become even increasingly evident into the 2000's. So perhaps we all need to revise our perception of the Chinese tea industry as it is constantly and rapidly changing.
Back then, their tea industry heavily focussed on"image" rather than "taste" or “flavour quality", image of the product itself or of the garden behind it. Priorities and mindset began to shift from "what looked good” or grew in a prestigious field to “what tasted good". That change has visibly impacted many aspects of the industry, including their production methods. The art of tea in China is rising once again and catering to a new discerning domestic market. Everything is evolving so fast in China including their general mindset and social conscience.
So though some of their practices in the not too distant past have been questionable, China is far from being the Evil Empire. Many producers and tea institutions have taken a keen interest in improving transformation and production methods and have creating complex export regulations to ensure quality of their product. Chinese tea looking better than ever.
As far as Camellia Sinensis is concerned, we control our imports by doing a few key things. We visit our producers each year to validate the quality of leaves, gardens and production methods. We also send the teas to a lab for a complex inspection process in order to fully ensure the quality of the leaves that we offer to you, our customers.
We hope this helps you to understand our perspective on the issue as well as why we so often say about Camellia Sinensis, "we would never sell something we wouldn't drink ourselves” and trust me, we are pretty fussy!
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