Long train rides from farm to farm. Luckily the trains are so fast nowadays, saving me a lot of time. Someone in the U.S. thought I was on vacation in China. I don’t believe I have ever taken a vacation there. It’s either a mountain climbing pilgrimage, tea buying, or other business. Vacation means de-stress usually, not ‘multiply the stress’. China, with its overpopulation, jostling, chaotic systems, possibility of being cheated, not to mention the random spitting that one must dodge with lightening verve, is simply not a relaxing situation. I do enjoy talking to all the farmers, tea producers, and all kinds of business people I meet, and exchange perspectives, as entertainment. They are much more open minded in some ways and wanting to hear, for example, just how bad this coming election is going to be. Isn’t Hillary going to win, they asked? Putin is not easy to deal with, he is the kingpin of thugs, they said. I laughed. What about Xi Jin Ping? Just a tough guy, huh? They seem to be slowly waking up to the dangers and failures of the patriarchal, Confucian system. No one has any solutions, but acknowledging the mess is a good step. If you are 1.3 billion people trapped inside a wall, what do you do? The Chinese are conditioned not to resist authority, they lamented. Curious. I didn’t start the conversation, and promised myself not to be an instigator this time either. Here in this photo, someone else’s thermos of tea, a typical scene of low end, repeatedly steeped, but at least, whole leaf tea, to be drunk all day long.
Great teas grow on foggy high mountains of constant moisture, cool air, and steep slopes. Asian tea aficionados understand it- so they line up for the daily lots. It is hard to compete against local buyers who ascend the mountain daily to taste the batches, or worse- the preorders from the Chinese mainlanders who have the purchasing power to buy every, single, drop of the great Taiwan teas. Our tour group, in particular our store manager who came on this trip, gets a taste of just how competitive the situation is and what some of the manuvering had to take place. Little, or big mountains, are moved sometimes.
A small batch of the first winter High Mountain Light Roast was purchased/wrestled from another buyer. How specifically, are the trade secrets I can no longer share on this blog! Not that others can do it even if the information was divulged.
In any case folks, that excellent small batch of High Mountain Light Roast– made today (10/20)- is available for pre-order at the shop and online. We didn’t make it to Dayuling (2500 meters elevation) this trip but I will be getting my preset quota, and not a drop more. So folks, preorder away. That’s the only way to get some of these teas now. When you are dealing with buyers as formidable as the ones from mainland ‘clean-sweep-with-corruption-money’ China, you are looking at being marginalized as tea aficionados very quickly.
But then again, ignorant teabag consumption is bliss?
Life at Tung Ting revolves around the typhoon, when it last came, repairing from damage, and when it’ll come next and whether they can recover enough yet. Today, we have blinding fog on the mountain. Hearing the chorus of birds early morning gives me hope. That might portend a lessening severity? I wish I was more connected to all the messages that nature gives us, instead of relying on weather reports that are usually wrong anyway.
The strongest tea in the universe, the 12,000 RMB (about $1950 USD per lb), Rougui oolong from the Cow Fence Enclave. Yes, that’s the name of the most sought after micro-terroir of the Main Cliff 正岩 of Wuyi region. There was a little enclave in one of the vertical cliff areas, a farmer discovered that he could force his cows up there but they can’t come down and run off easily, a natural cow fence. So per serving is what, about $30? What a steal! Lasts about 20 infusions, so my per sip cost just went down to 45 cents! Well, math geniusness aside, I have the Communist government crackdown on corruption to thank. This leader grade stuff was never before accessible to commoners. Strong, aggressive, thick viscosity like broth, and stamina through all 20 infusions- this is the boxing champ of teas.
What do you want the Americans to know most about your teas, I asked Mr. Zhang? He being easily one of the most uncompromising tea artisans I know, I prefaced by saying that Americans are trained on mass produced black teas with cream and sugar so don’t expect too much. Mr. Zhang replied that Wuyi teas have the strongest body and an intensity that will get better with age, as opposed to light fragrance oolongs-sissies, to them. Their long 6 month charcoal roasting process is extremely demanding xtreme-tea-making, and no other tea in the world requires this much knowledge and expertise in its processing. Appreciate its depth, its thickness, its mouthfeel, palate fragrance, the 20 steepings. I think the most expensive tea we carry are now Mr. Zhang’s Wuyi oolongs. For me, it’s the last frontier and contribution to our mission at Teance of introducing the world’s best teas. Mr. Zhang does not need more demand for his teas though. Selling out just to the local connoisseurs are a matter of course. Taking years to introduce the tea to Americans, traveling 10,000 miles at a time- people do wonder about me a little. Here I pause and wonder why I bother, but tomorrow, I’ll head out to another farm again regardless. Sometimes there’s really no reason for doing something worthwhile.