Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Who is a tea expert?

written by isundust on on 2012-03-16

Who is a tea expert?

If in one sip, you can identify a tea, are you an expert? No way! It just means you are able to remember a tea you drank before.
If in one sip, you can tell the approximate age of a tea, are you an expert? No way! It just means you are a seasoned Pu-erh tea drinker.
When others mention a tea, you always say you have it in your collection, are you an expert then? Of course not! It only shows that you are a collector, like a philatelist.
When others mention a tea, you are able to tell them its characteristics and price, does it mean you are an expert? Nonsense! It only shows you're in the business or that you are an big enthusiast.

You know by heart the names of many tea mountains, villages and peaks, so what? You can explain in detail how the plucking is realized, and then?

Actually, we are only people who drink tea, why do we all want to become ''specialists''? Does it mean that every one of us would like to make a living out of tea?

In the end if we were only tea drinkers who can serve tea, who can love tea, who treat every single leaf with great care, that would be enough. If you get to understand every tea you have, if you can get the best out of them, then I would say you are amazing.

Each tea, no matter how expensive it is, has its own style, its own good and bad aspects; brew it with all of your heart, you can get the spirit of this tea, extract every special trait, point up the best side of it, grasp the full essence of this tea; then you are a real expert.

Let's talk about the Dayi 7542 recipe: this tea is very common, it's a blend of plantation teas, to my knowledge, this tea is brewed well when you get 4 characteristics: 1- no bitterness or astringency, 2- a changing and lively liquor, 3-a soup pleasant in the mouth, 4- the typical Chaqi of 7542. Few people can get those four features together in a same cup.

Today, I brought up a controversial debate; actually, I like this saying: '' the more I argue, the more I find out that I don't know Pu-erh tea''. As far as i'm concerned, I wish to argue and learn more with every tea friend I can meet.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

price of Pu-erh tea in 2012

    published on 2012-03-08 on a main platform for Pu-erh tea in mainland China.
    written by isundust

Yunnan drought and insights on the price of Pu-erh tea

After a time of stability, the price of Pu-erh tea is starting to move. Our journalists traveled to Xiamen (a city in Fujian) and visited several tea shops to ''test the water''. Because of the drought, the production is lower, the new tea doesn't arrive on the markets, the tea farmers are reluctant to sell the leaves, the price for Pu-erh tea is already increasing. Yet, the experts think the increase will mostly affect the ancient tea gardens leaves from the most famous mountains, it will have few impact on the mainstream tea, the 2007 situation of mad speculation is unlikely to happen again.

Production decreased two-three fold:

''The drought will surely affect tea production'' says Mr Huang, an experienced tea businessman from the Huang Pin Hao tea house. He told to our reporters that, because of the drought, the 2012 spring tea good be released in mid-April at earliest, this is two weeks later than last year's harvest. Even worse, this year's production is estimated to be two or three times lower as 2011. ''This implies that the price of Pu-erh tea will increase''

In 2009, Pu-erh tea price increased because of the drought, it recovered slightly in 2010 and in 2011, it increased again. This year, it will be a bit higher for sure.

''Last year, the price of Lao Banzhang tea peaked at 2200-2300 yuan per kilo, this year, it is expected to reach 2800 or 3000 yuan.'' says mr Huang

A speculation frenzy is not very probable this year.
Because of this expected price increase, the tea farmers are reluctant to sell their tea now.
''During the high price periods, the farmers usually release their stock slowly: if they have 100 kg of mao cha, they first sell only 10 kg, then the price increases and they can sell another small batch.'' says the tea expert.

''Nonetheless, a ten-fold increase like in 2007 is very unlikely to happen.'' Mr Huang tells us. On that year, it occurred because a lot of new investments were brought into the system, it led to a crazy speculation on Pu-erh tea. Today, the market is reasonable again, during the price peak in 2007, those who bought the tea were rich investors, nowadays, the main driving force of the market is the mid and low range teas for the everyday drinker, very few people would buy tons of Pu-erh as a financial investment nowadays. Therefore, the tea amateurs might accept to pay an extra cost because of the drought, but a new frenzy is not expected.

According to the tea businessman, the price increase will concern mainly high-end Pu-erh: Lao Banzhang, Bingdao, Mahei, Jingmai Shan, Kunlu Shan, etc... Those areas have very limited productions, and many people who buy from those mountains see it as an investment, hence the price increase will be more obvious on those premium teas. In comparison, the output of low and mid range cakes is much higher, and this is what the consumers buy mostly, so even if the trend is to the price rise, the market should not be too much affected.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

tea videos

I started this Sunday with tea, watching the sun rising. I love this moment when you have all your time to really enjoy a session. I spent ten minutes staring at the dry leaves, touching them. I took the time to preheat the tea set, trying to catch the most subtle aroma which develops in the hot gaiwan when you put the leaves in. 

As the sun was getting higher in the sky, I brewed a sample from Bing Shan in Mengku area, Lincang. Spring 2011, very fragrant, complex, it was stored in Kunming and has kept all of its freshness. It reminded me the time I was in Yunnan, when I could drink tea which, two days before, was still on a tree. The yellow liquor gave me a kick for the whole morning and left me a sweet and fragrant aftertaste in the mouth.

I have created a Youtube account and uploaded a few videos from Xishuangbanna, it was so great to watch them again:

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

why I love tea

Why I love tea

I love tea, I realize it takes a big part of my life. Five years have past since my first contact with unflavored loose leaf tea. I don't feel any addiction to caffeine, but I know the Way of tea is guiding my life. Today, I just asked myself ''why?''. Why do I do all this for a few leaves? Then, I tried to put my arguments on a paper and I ended up with this:

1- It tastes great

This is the most complex non-alcoholic beverage I have come across. Tea can be so diverse, depending on where it grows, how it's been processed, how you brew it... I taste tea in the same way as I enjoy music, I'm a very visual person and I transform what I hear, feel, smell, or taste, into a picture. When I smell tea, I try to imagine in which place I could walk to get the same fragrance: it can be a forest, a wooden house full of flowers with a fireplace in the background, or just a piece of soil, with moss and mushrooms... I can be very imaginative and that's why I love it, drinking tea is good for developing creativity, the more complex the tea, the more stuff in your mental picture.

2- Tea is a very holistic subject

I love science, and studying tea leads you to learn more chemistry, agronomy, environmental science... You get interested in things you'd never thought about, crazy things that can sound useless to most: oxygen 18, ecosystem services, degradation of glyphosate in soil... Because of tea, I'm studying environmental science at university, I love it because I can relate it to something I have seen and that I taste every day.

Tea is also a great source of Culture, maybe the good feeling you have when you're drinking tea pushes people to have crazy philosophical questions and that is how the human thinking moves forward. In China, especially, scholars have a strong relationship with tea. So far, the main cultural improvement tea pushed me to do has been to learn Chinese; I wouldn't have tried if I didn't like tea, but now, I agree it is a very rewarding language. It is useful because you can find Chinese speakers almost everywhere on the planet. It is also enriching due to its large vocabulary: by learning this language, you are introduced new concepts (for example Qi, Xuwei 虚伪, or the mighty Mei Banfa! 没办法!).

3- Wanderlust

Have you noticed that tea only grows in beautiful countries? China, India, Kenya, Argentina... a real call of the wild. Tea has brought me to China and India, but I'm really looking forward to explore the other producing countries. Studying tea has led me to the most memorable experiences in my life. Exploring a tea area is very much like looking for a treasure, or a hidden Inca tomb: you spend hours in crappy buses, meet very strange people, cross into forbidden areas, have great meals in the countryside, get lost in the jungle, and finally, you reach the tea trees, taste their leaves, and prepare for another trip...

4- Tea is an endless source of learning

One day, a tea master told me that, after 40 years of drinking tea, he was still learning something new everyday. Tea is an incredibly deep subject, as I mentioned before, it includes many side-studies, but there is even more than this...

Tea can be seen from different perspectives, it can be very simple or extremely complex, but in both cases, it is deep. Often, tea masters have two kinds of thinking, they can talk about very accurate and down-to-earth subjects: how tea should be plucked, at which temperature you should fry the leaves if it's raining... but they are also able to simply enjoy a cup of tea, without talking about it. In fact, I am sure a tea master can enjoy a tea bag much more than an Englishman, because one of the things tea teaches you is to be simple. Why is it so?

Learning tea is not a linear process. When learning mathematics, you first learn the addition, in primary school; when you take a PhD in mathematics, you study very advanced things but what you have learned in primary school is still true, in this way, this is a linear learning: the more you learn, the more you know. When it is about tea, I would say it is more of a cyclic pattern: you build up some knowledge, and one day, it is destroyed by a tea you drink or a person you meet, you realize that you were wrong, that you were missing something. Having your past knowledge destroyed is actually an improvement, let's say it's like building a house: you start it with basic materials, expand it and add new floors. One day, it gets too heavy and collapses, but then, you understand better how to build good foundations, you construct it again, using more solid material, expand it, add new floors... until next time it collapses! There goes the way of learning tea, there goes the way of evolution, we learn from what we knew wrong.

This is also why, there should be tolerance among tea amateurs, everybody is a student, and will always be a student. After one year drinking ''fine'' tea, I kind of despised those who drank tea bags and flavored tea. One year later, I realized I was wrong, because the teas I was drinking one year from there were actually of poor quality by my new standards. I must admit that, if on the first time I entered a tea shop, I had been given a Pu-erh tea, I would probably have said I prefer flavored tea bags because they do have a taste and they are not bitter and so on...

Having a blog is cool because you can read what you've written in the past. I hope in five years, I will have a good laugh reading my first articles, that will mean I'll have improved myself. Being tolerant, this is an important thing tea has taught me.

How about you, dear readers, why do you love tea? What does it give you?