Jasmin Desharnais - China 2009

China 2009

Two thousand eight was a very diverse year for Jasmin. For his seventh tea trip to China, he covered Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Taiwan - all in a month. He visited artisans and producers of white, green, Wulong, and black teas, as well as Pu Er collectors with whom he participated in tastings and made his yearly purchases for the Tea House.

After landing in Shanghai, Jasmin visited Mr. Liu, producer of the celebrated Bi Luo Chun, in Jiangsu for the sixth consecutive year where negotiations were successful in an unprecedented way. The Bi Luo Chun B1 is at a low price never seen before and is superior in quality to previous years' batches. In Hangzhou, capital city of Zhejiang, Jasmin took part in tastings with the resident tasters at the two tea research centres he visited. He also paid a visit to the Organic Tea Research and Development Centre (OTRDC), in order to strengthen the Tea House's organic cultivation projects in China. He then had tea with two professors of Mr. He, who is a Huiming producer and Hangzhou University alumni. One of the professors was 72 years old and has been teaching tea for 45 years! Unlike the afternoon affair where tea was in the foreground, plenty of rice wine and several legends of the tea world enlivened the evening. The next day, Jasmin paid a visit to his two Long Jing producers, first in Meijiawu that morning and then in Long Jing that afternoon. The morning tasting, amidst the smell of frying, was quite gruelling as he tried more than 20 teas in the hopes of choosing only one. Another day was spent visiting Tian Mu Qing Ding producer Mr. Shao, in the magnificent Tianmu Mountains. Jasmin was dismayed upon realizing that a section of these gardens at an altitude of 800 metres was ravaged by freezing temperatures last spring. Later, Jasmin visited the superb Anji region, where Anji Bai Cha, his favourite tea, comes from. Then, another yearly visit with Mr. Yang and his family, where he procured more tea of amazing quality at a very reasonable price.

His stay in Fujian started in the Wuyi Mountains where the famous Wulong rock teas are produced. However, Jasmin was a little early considering that the harvest had started only two days previous. There were few tastings of new teas but plenty of opportunity to learn about transformation techniques and to visit some of the original Da Hong Pao tea bushes. At Wuyi, Jasmin hurt his back while on a treacherous road to his first-time visit of a remote village known for its white and black teas. He had a great meeting with one of the local producers. The Zhenghe Hong Gong Fu and Zhenghe Bai Hao Yin Zhen were the pleasant result of this meeting where the town mayor insisted on holding a superb Chinese banquet in Jasmin's honour. Another long night!

The road out of Zhenghe was as bad as the road in, but Jasmin was very pleased to be headed toward Fuding, where his friend Mr. Zhang, a white tea producer was waiting for him. Despite having a cold, Mr. Zhang greeted him with his legendary hospitality. Tea tastings and selection were held simply and efficiently, without anyone smoking in the room! A ten-hour bus ride to Xiamen later, Jasmin met up with Wang, a translator friend, to explore Guangdong's Feng Huang Mountains for the first time. After a visit with three producers of Feng Huang Dancong, the three-day exploration was deemed a success. Jasmin purchased five types of tea, in small quantities, keeping in line with the small batch sizes made available by the best artisan producers. Afterwards, it was back to Fujian, Anxi, where Mr. Wei, the lively producer of Tie Guan Yin was waiting with a surprise: a brand new transformation factory.

After visiting a tea caddy supplier, Jasmin flew off to Hong Kong for three wonderful days of Pu Er tastings and workshops. While his 2007 trip to Yunnan focused on young Pu Er and their eventual aging, the 2008 trip was more about exploring actual antique Pu Er collections and learning more about the various aging techniques. Several tastings were planned, the most important being in the company of Mr. Vesper Chan. Jasmin got to spend six hours with this expert, first in his shop and then at his home office, surrounded by his collection of compressed tea bricks. They tasted many aged Pu Ers, of particular interest was the Liu Bao from the 1900s! Afterwards, they tasted the superb freshly picked Maocha 2008, which Mr. Chan will use to make his next batch of tea bricks.

After three days of Pu Er information sessions and tastings, it was time to meet up with Hugo and Daniel in Taiwan so they could all take part in another training session on Pu Er teas. For two days, the three colleagues learned about the origin, transformation, and aging methods, as well as tasting and analysing several teas in Mr. Lin's collection. Tasting the Tong Xin 1934 and the Lu An 1950 proved to be a memorable experience, a unique and precious moment. Jasmin ended his trip by following Hugo to Taiwan for a visit to a Ping Lin Bao Zhong producer and for the yearly purchase of Taiwanese teapots.