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I have been visiting China to buy teas for 23 years. As I get older, I do have some nostalgia, so I like to visit familiar places, see old friends, and temper that with new experiences.
This year I landed in Shanghai with my tasting buddy: Elvira Cardenas. I fought off jet lag to meet with my tea friend named Mr. Water who lives where Bi Lo Chun originated. This year’s tea was great, sweet, and full of early season body. Water said that the cold spring was a problem, but not for me. Please try this tea, it is one of the best teas from China.
Next, we went down to Hangzhou to see another old friend, Mr. Lu. Mr. Lu has supplied us with the best Lung Chings for many years. He is the one who introduced us to Mr. Zhao, a manufacturer of superb green teas. We went to his place in MejiaWu that night for dinner. MejiaWu is a small town with a mixture of tea fields, tea factories, and restaurants. His wife went out into the fields to get some fresh tea leaves that were added to some shrimp, and a good time was had by all.
The next few days we headed south and drank many very nice green teas. A new find was the green teas of Tian Tai. There we found these pretty fields high above the city where the tea leaves had a distinctive yellow hue rather than jade green. It is a type of tea that grows that way, just like Anji Baicha looks white. It makes an exceptional tea that is a bit expensive. However, after tasting it, we had to purchase a few pounds. This is a rare treat for green tea lovers and we’re excited to share it with you.
We said goodbye to Mr. Lu and hello to an old, old friend, Mr. Wang. I had traveled with him on my first trip to China back in 1996 but have not seen him for many years. Our first stop was the capital of white tea, the city of Fuding. There has been a remarkable transformation of that city because of the increased demand for white tea. The Chinese have taken a fancy to aged white tea, and that has created prosperity. Tea was everywhere. We did learn a thing or two more about white tea than we knew before we arrived. One sunny day, we went up to an organic tea garden high in the mountains. It was great to be able to see the ocean and tea at the same time.
After Fuding, we headed west along a string of towns that are famous for their black teas; Panyang, Zheng He, and Songxi. Even here the white tea craze is going strong, with some producers stopping the production of their black teas. I love these black teas though Pangyang Congou and many versions of Golden Monkey. Last year we found 4 different versions of Golden Monkey from various towns, and we hope to offer that again this year.
Our last stop in the Fujian Province was the celebrated Wuyishan area. This has become a significant tourist area over the decades as China has prospered. We tasted many oolongs that were just starting to be produced. The Chinese like to finish them over charcoal, but we find that hides the great flavors, so we asked Mr. Chao to roast them less. Also, we went high into the mountains to Tongmu village where Lapsang originated. I had been up there a couple of times before. In the past, the local government did not allow us up. It was fun to pass by the old red gate that blocked us previously and we enjoyed some new hotels along the riverside. We went to the tea factory of Mr. Cheng. He is famous for his early Spring black teas made just from the bud. This is the rare Jin Jun Mei. The Chinese love this fantastic tasting tea, so to get some we had to pay quite a bit. However, we know you will enjoy it!
After Wuyishan, we took a bullet train to Changsha. They have so many of these trains, it is much more convenient than the old days with lengthy trips in cars. Our old friend, Steve He awaited us. We drove up to a remote tea garden several hours south of the city by a winding river to an idyllic little tea garden where we spent the night. They called this taste of Shangri La: Gulou (Gulou teas coming soon). We were the first westerners to come and buy teas (that does not happen often anymore). The owners gave us a tour up the steep hills, and we tasted their best and will be offering them to you.
On the way back home, I saw the man that imports our teas into Hong Kong. It is always nice to do a mix of buying and selling. We do well over in Macao where all the casinos are. Finally, I had lunch with Vanessa Pong. We assist her organization Live to Love with our 1% for the Planet donations. Vanessa was supported by my father many years ago, so it was a fitting end to a trip that blended the old and new.
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Our October Teafluencer is Chantal Larocque, a paper flower artist, author and owner of Paper and Peony. Chantal’s work runs from mini paper flowers to jaw-dropping wall-sized blossoms. Read about Chantal, who turns to tea for her afternoon forget-me-not pick-me-up.