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 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
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
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
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 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
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
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.