20% SALE Chinese New Year

We’re a little behind this year. We’d planned to do a January sale as we have in previous years, but I was travelling in Europe and we didn’t get around to it. To make up for it, we’ll do a sale for the next week – giving tea equal to 20% of the total value of your order for free.

We’ll give you 20% extra tea for free on all orders placed before 14th Feb.  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.

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

Wholesale Puerh & Liu Bao tea

We’ve been wholesaling tea for many years now, though never really promoted it online.  A big part of our business in recent years has been wholesaling aged Liu Bao and young Puerh tea to tea businesses within China.   We’ve also been wholesaling to western tea businesses on a smaller scale, but have always had the intention that this is something we’d like to focus on a bit more in the future.

Part of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2018 was to get organised and put together a decent wholesale list for Western tea businesses. Happily, I can now say that this is almost complete.

I’m putting together a mailing list for wholesale customers.  Many of the teas we stock online are not available for wholesale purchase, but we also have teas that we don’t list on our website & reserve for wholesale customers only. For puerh tea we also offer custom pressings with your own brand. If you’re interested, and have a legitimate tea business (I will check!), please feel free to sign up below…

If on the other hand you don’t have a tea business, but know a local business who you feel would benefit from stocking or serving our teas, please feel free to let them (or me) know.

 

Subscribe to our wholesale mailing list

* indicates required







Some thoughts on Puerh Tea Processing

Most people don’t give a lot of thought to the processing of puerh tea.

The trees matter, their age, health and environment where they’re growing.  This tends to be the main determinant in the selling price of tea.  If the area is famous or the trees especially old, the tea can sell for more money.

In general, the processing for puerh is relatively simple – pick the leaves, wither for a while, dry fry them in a wok (kill-green), roll them and put them in the sun to dry.

If the processing is particularly poor, it’s easy to spot, for example if the leaves are over oxidised or burnt.  Less easy is the difference between mediocre processing and exceptional.

“A good tea splashes up in the mouth” – It has taken me years to understand the meaning of this term.  It’s only been since sitting with people, drinking tea with them and having this sensation pointed out again and again that I’ve noticed it.  The flavour is vibrant, felt on the upper palate  as you swallow the tea and open your mouth, the aroma automatically fills the nostrils and emerges from them,  the aftertaste is clear, clean, transparent, without any gluiness or obstruction.

These sensations are so difficult to describe and, without feeling them they’re so abstract to read about that I’ve so far resisted trying to put them into written word, but it’s become clear to me that these finer points come largely from the processing of the tea.  They’re the same for puerh tea as they are for wuyi yancha and liubao.  What has become clear is that the correct and precise application of heat during the processing transforms the tea from mediocre to exceptional.

photo credit: Marc Sethi

Luckily for most of the readers here, this isn’t something that they need to concern themselves overly with, but as a tea producer it’s something we need to pay attention to and try to get right.   We don’t physically do the work of making our teas, but in our instructions to the farmers we work with and choice of the farmers we work with, we can direct the style of teas we make.

 

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.