November/Black Friday 20% SALE!!!

November SALE

From now until the end of the month we’re having a SALE!  We thought we’d try something new this year….

We’ll give you 20% extra tea for free on all orders placed before 30th Nov.  Just leave a comment with your order stating which tea you’d like and we’ll give you as much of this tea for free equal to 20% of the total value of your order.

Use this to stock up on some extra tea to drink over the holiday period.

(let’s keep it easy…. just one tea please for the total value)

2017 Puerh – a roundup of our spring

As we packed up the last of our teas a few days ago and brought them to be pressed, I took a few moments to look back on the progress we’ve made in the tea mountains over the past years.  This spring was our 9th consecutive spring in the tea mountains of Yunnan & in some ways it feels like we’ve just started properly.   I look back with fondness at the wonderful naivety that we had in the first couple of years going to the tea mountains.  Taking buses and hiring minivans to bring us to the mountain villages and, clueless of all but a few famous and easy to reach places, we really felt like we were on an adventure.  We met lovely people and were treated so nicely…. and got cheated of course!

Being cheated one way or another is part and parcel of being in the tea business.  I’m not sure if I know anyone who’s spent any significant time sourcing tea in China that hasn’t been cheated somewhere along the road.  Minimising your losses and being able to spot when you’ve been cheated is crucial though.   In our storage, we’ve still got batches of tea that we don’t feel comfortable to sell.

The view across Yiwu state forest

With time though, relationships get stronger & the honest and reliable farmers are the ones you stick with.  This doesn’t give as much yearly diversity that customers sometimes want, but it gives us greater confidence in our teas and allows us to encourage the farmers in their protection of the gardens in the long term.

We’ve also been very fortunate with the other people we’ve met in Yunnan who are also sourcing tea in the mountains.  We’ve learned a lot from them and I can say almost all of our strongest and most important relationships with tea farmers have come through introductions by friends.

Coming down from Ai Lao Mountains

I think the biggest change we’ve made and the one that has had the most liberating effect, is getting my Chinese driving license and our own transport… a beat-up pickup truck that has seen its fair share of mountain tracks already.  Before that we’d been borrowing 4×4’s or pickup trucks or hitching with friends into the mountains, but always felt limited in the freedom we had to explore or stay for as long as we’d like.

Withering our “Secret Forest” wild white tea

This Spring we’ve been mostly visiting old contacts – spending most of our time in Wuliang, Ai Lao and Yiwu and visiting Yibang and Menghai briefly.  We found some really special tea from the state forest in Yiwu, concentrated on ancient tree wild tea from some areas in Wuliang and found some a couple of new ancient tree gardens too.  For our wrappers, we wanted to complement the handmade aspect of our tea, and decided to use Yunnan hand-died fabric to decorate the locally handmade paper.   Our cakes are being pressed at the moment & hopefully we’ll have them available for sale in a couple of weeks time.

Sewing our puerh wrappers

Yiwu State Forest

 

A busy year

We don’t seem to have stopped this year. Though exhausting, it’s been an exciting time for us. As we’ve been having more and more demand from wholesale customers in China, Malaysia and the West, we’ve realised the need to lay the groundwork for steady, long term relationships with various farmers. In Wuyishan we’ve got an exciting collaboration with the Huang family for some more affordable teas to accompany our range of high end yancha and some higher roast teas for long term ageing, in Yunnan we’re renting a property for some basic processing of puerh and to serve as a base for collecting tea from various mountains and in Malaysia we’re hunting around for old Liu Bao and teapots.

We’ve outgrown our space in Kuala Lumpur and, in search of a nice place to live and pure environment to age our tea, we’ve rented a warehouse in Taiping, a lovely sleepy town by the mountains a few hours drive north of Kuala Lumpur. It’s not as convenient for travel, but a much nicer place to live.

Autumn in Yunnan

View from Wuliang Mountains

View over Ai Lao Mountains

We spent about 3 weeks this Autumn in Yunnan.  This season wasn’t particularly great for puerh tea – there’d been a lot of rain and the tea in most areas was quite watery and astringent.  In the end we didn’t find many teas that we could get excited about and only bought a little.   For members of the puerh tea club, don’t worry – we’ve got some nice bits and pieces for you, some older teas from our personal collection and a little Autumn tea that was particularly nice.  We’re just waiting for the teas to arrive back in Malaysia and will be sending out the parcels in around 2-3 weeks.

Despite not finding many teas to buy now, we did have a very fruitful trip, viewing an organic tea garden that we plan to lease next year and finding some new areas that we hope to buy tea from in the Spring.

Kathy with an old tea tree - we hope to make a little tea from this garden next Spring

Kathy with an old tea tree – we hope to make a little tea from this garden next Spring

Along with us for much of the trip was photographer and old friend Marc Sethi, who is in the midst of a photo documentary on our trips to the tea mountains of Yunnan.  It was all shot on film, so we’re excited to see his photos when developed.    Hopefully he’ll publish them towards the middle of next year.

We also visited the Dai minority couple who make the paper for our puerh cakes.  We’re really happy to be able to support them – we pre-book their whole yearly production, using some and saving some for the future.  They’re lovely people and really put their hearts into making nice paper.   The young people in the village don’t want to do this hard work anymore, so it’s really a dying art.

Making handmade paper for puerh tea cake wrapping

Making handmade paper for puerh tea cake wrapping

Wuyishan

We spent a few days again this Autumn in Wuyishan.  We were invited to participate in a forum on Tea and Zen, organised by TianXin Yongle temple and attended by monks and tea lovers from China and beyond.    Being situated in the middle of the Wuyi mountain park, TianXin Yongle temple has a long affinity with tea and the monks farm and process their own Wuyi Yancha.   It was an interesting affair, externally a mix of performance and show, but also an chance to meet and chat with tea lovers from many backgrounds.

Wuyishan Tianxin Yongle Temple "Tea and Zen" gathering

Wuyishan Tianxin Yongle Temple “Tea and Zen” gathering

We also took the opportunity to discuss with the Huang family about our plans for Wuyi yancha, and pre-booked some special small varietals for next year.

Liu Bao

Liu Bao is hot!   The market in Malaysia is moving so fast as more and more Chinese people are coming to find this tea.  In Mainland China, there’s quite a bit of Liu Bao from the past few years, but beyond that, good quality aged tea is still quite rare & teas from the 90’s or before are pretty much non-existent in the market there.

Circles of 1950s Liu Bao Tea - theres 4 of these inside each 50kg basket from this era

Circles of 1950s Liu Bao Tea – theres 4 of these inside each 50kg basket from this era

With the popularity of aged puerh and the subsequent increase in prices, most tea lovers can’t afford to drink 30, 40 or 50 year old puerh, and many of those teas in the market are of substandard quality.

China is just waking up to Liu Bao it seems.  Tea lovers are finding that good aged liu bao can be as good or better than the aged puerh they’ve been drinking and for a fraction of the price.

Close-up of 1950s Liu Bao tea

Close-up of 1950s Liu Bao tea

For us, this is quite an exciting time.  We’ve been stretching our finances for the past few years to buy and store as much old liu bao as we’ve been able to afford.  Whenever we’ve had any money to spare, most of it went on old Liu Bao teas.  Already many of the old vintages are difficult to find as people are reluctant to sell in the Malaysian market.  I feel lucky to have some in our hands before it’s pushed up out of the reach of ordinary tea drinkers.

 

 

What’s been going on…

We’ve been a bit quiet of late, both here on the blog and on our Facebook and Instagram feeds. This year has been non-stop for us.

Young Puerh

We spent almost 3 months in Yunnan this Spring. I took my Chinese driving license test and was able to drive legally in the mountains for the first time this Spring. A friend of ours has a 4×4 he rarely uses in Yunnan, so has lent it to us on an ongoing basis for our tea hunting trips. It has really opened up the scope of the places we’re able to visit and given us much more freedom than in previous years. We were able to spend more time in Wuliang and Ai Lao than we have before. This area of Yunnan is very interesting for me. The altitude is very high and there’s a lot of very old wild trees and pure environment. It’s also well off the beaten track for the tea tourists that flock to Xishuangbanna each Spring, thus prices are still very reasonable and the farmers less spoilt than in the more famous regions.

Wuliang Wild Puerh

Wuliang Wild Puerh

We decided to press our cakes ourselves also and did so in the house of a farmer in Wuliang mountains. Everything is handmade – the fresh tea handpicked and hand-processed by the farmers, the loose tea for each cake weighed by Kathy, steamed with fresh mountain spring water and stone pressed by me. The cakes were laid out to dry in the shade for several days before being wrapped in local handmade paper and wrapped in bamboo tongs. The only machines used in the whole process was the 4×4 we used to transport the tea. Even with the printing of the wrappers, we decided to print using a small woodblock stamp.

Wrapping our Puerh tea cakes

Wrapping our Puerh tea cakes

Wuyi Yancha

We made a quick trip to Wuyi in the middle of the Spring and again in August. This year we decided to concentrate our selection of yancha and offer a few selected varietals from specific small locations within the park. We’ve been discussing a strategy with Master Huang – he’s really keen for the best of his teas to be made available to tea drinkers in the west and offered us some small varietal and small location teas this year.

Tasting Wuyi Yancha

Tasting Wuyi Yancha

We’re still waiting for 3 more teas which were still being roasted when we visited in August, but have listed the others online and made them available for sale. My feeling is that the purity of small single location teas really shows in the quality of teas we’re offering this year.

Harvesting Lao Shou Xin

Harvesting Lao Shou Xin

Liu bao

Liu Bao is hot in Malaysia right now. More and more Chinese are coming to Malaysia and hunting around for the old Liu bao teas. It’s quite an exciting time to be in the Liu Bao market – in Malaysia most people are holding on to their good teas, but when someone needs money and makes their tea available for sale, you need to be quick – baskets are snapped up by tea business people and local investors in a matter of days. The processing of Liu Bao has really changed in the past 5 or so years and the new teas don’t have the traditional flavour any more. As a result the pre-2011 teas are more and more sought after & it’s these teas that people are scrambling to store.

Us

Lastly, we’ve just moved house. Previously we were based in Petaling Jaya, a satellite town to Kuala Lumpur, but with still the same traffic jams and poor air as the capital. For the past year or so, we’ve been renting a warehouse in Taiping, a sleepy colonial town surrounded by mountains a few hours drive north of KL. Each time we came here, we rarely wanted to leave and eventually decided to make the move completely. The air is nice and the environment is great for storing tea, the mountain water is good for brewing tea and the town is small enough to get around on a bicycle. It’s a lovely change from city living!

Taiping

Taiping

We’ve just finished with the move and settling into our new home. Hopefully over the coming weeks, we’ll have some new teas and teapots coming as we spend some time hunting around Malaysia again.

Puerh Tea Club – Spring shipment closing date

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We’re back from the mountains, finishing up our trip in Yunnan and consolidating our teas in our Jinghong warehouse. Over the next few days we’ll be preparing and arranging shipping for the Spring shipment of our puerh tea club.

I know there are a few people who’d mentioned that they’d like to be included in the Spring shipment & thought I’d give more general advance notice. The closing date for those who’d like to be included in this Spring shipment is Friday 17th June. Orders after that date will receive 1 x 2016 Autumn and 1x 2017 Spring Shipment.

We’ve found some very interesting and special teas this year. I hope they’ll prove enjoyable for everyone.

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