This May we returned to Asia to make our selections of this year’s premium grades of spring tea, to further our tea research and to continue our education in tea and tea culture. This trip did not take us out into the remote tea fields and tea factories as past trips did, but instead we visited with potters, tea masters, tea roasters, tea producers, and tea gardens owners ( in the Fan Cun Tea Market, the largest in China ! ) in the cities, at their studios, in their shops, etc.
We successfully made new connections for tea that is sold by those who grow it , which insures that the product has integrity in how it is grown, plucked, manufactured, and that each one will deliver delicious, full flavor in the cup. We also brought back a small selection of teawares on which we hope to build a unique collection of items to import and sell from the potters that we met.
Finally, we had the opportunity to visit South Korea for the first time, and tasted tea that was just a few days old. This year we will ( at last ! ) have spring tea from Mt. Jire-san, the region that produces Korea’s orgainic, hand-plucked tea. This tea should arrive sometime in mid-July. The early tea season was delayed in Korea because of cold weather, and tea plucking and manufacture had just begun when we arrived. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to taste the new tea and make our selections. Without much tea to see in process, we were able to visit several celebrated Korean potters who make elegant and graceful Korean-style tea bowls and teapots, the style of which is rarely available in the USA. It was very exciting to see these teawares and add a few pieces to our personal collection, to boot !
From Korea we returned to Japan where we tasted the new spring Shincha tea ( it’s available from us now in the shop and online! ) and also had an immersion course in regional Japanese tea ceramics.
From Japan we went to Guangdong Province, China, where we visited the largest wholesale tea market in the world ( and yes, it was overwhelming and yes, a few special teas will be coming ! ) and tasted many fine teas. Our focus was on fine oolongs and black teas and we were not disappointed.
Colleagues introduced to a respected Tea Master and we spent an entire day with this gentleman who shared some aged Pu-erh and Fenghuang Dan Cong tea with us and then kindly invited us to ask him any questions that we might have. This was wonderful for us because we always arrive in Asia with a laundry-list of questions as there are so few here in the USA who have the answers we seek.
Lastly, we finished in Hong Kong where we ate ourselves silly at our favorite dim sum restaurant and visited with tea colleagues who spoiled us with many fine oolong and Pu-erh teas. In fact, we brought back several tongs of Pu-erh tea in our suitcase ( keeping our fingers crossed that the tea was not considered contraban by a trained security beagle ) which will be available for sale soon.
It was exhilarating to be away and spend time in such vibrant places and to immerse ourselves in such ancient, unique but complimentary tea cultures. But it is also nice to be home and get back to work preparing our new teas for sale. There is much to do. As the dust settles from our time away I will be adding new posts from our trip in the coming weeks.