François Marchand - Central China 2013

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.