Saturday, March 29, 2008

Next Stop White Tea Country - Visiting the Mountains

After a wonderful day with Mr. Li we load all of our belongings into a car and head to our next destination, Fuding white tea country. After the 1 1/2 hour trip through the mountains we arrive to a very busy downtown area. We check into our hotel and comfortably rest for the night.

In the morning Miss Coe comes to greet us and delivers us to the factory where we are going to begin our day with this potential new supplier. We meet Mr. Lin who is the President of the company who proudly tours us through his massive facility. Most impressive are the organic processing areas where the high tech equipment and processing procedures are obviously the highest standard. Amy and I cup some teas and get to know more about Mr. Lin and his organization which is much to my liking.

Because white teas come in so many levels of quality and grades I am really interested in finding additional sources and we have definitely hit the mark here, good job Amy!

After cupping teas we get back in the car and head up the mountain to lunch. The ride at best is drivable but when we finally arrive at the club, I guess, the view is amazing and well worth the bumpy trip.

We sit outside, by what is the pool area in the summertime, overlooking a large body of water with a spectacular view. I suspect that Taiwan is on the other side of that body of water but cant confirm that. We are served tea, organic Bai Mu Dan of course, and enjoy conversing with Mr. Shao who has joined us.

After enjoying a meal of mostly local seafood and veggies we are back down that mountain to head up another to the tea gardens, yeah!

The trip up the mountain is incredible! It takes us a little more than an 1 hour to finally arrive at the gardens and I have been taking pictures the entire way. Amy says no one will believe me but I actually get a lot of good pictures just hanging the camera out the window and snapping, she calls me the "blind cat", a Chinese legend I will share in a later blog.

Anyway the mist is hanging on the mountain side. The air is cool and crisp. The environment is unlike any other I have seen in China, precisely manicured and meticulously cared for more like a public garden then a tea garden.

As we climb further up the mountain I realize Mr. Lin is not just the owner of a tea company he is a nature lover, committed to the environment in which he has been given charge. His passion flows as he leads the way snapping his own photos of flower blossoms and sharing all of his obvious local botanical knowledge and love for this awesome place.

Among the tea plants grow herbs and flowers, he explains that this synergy is part of the final product that ends up in our cup. He points out the 6 surrounding hills on the mountain that are part of the organic tea farm. He jets off the beaten path occasionally, with me close behind, to observe or show me something. No he doesn't speak English and my Chinese is pathetic but we clearly understand each other and I feel a part of the whole process.

When I tell people back home that the best assurance of the quality of our products comes from my relationship with the growers this is exactly what I am talking about. Not easily expressed but obvious in the moment, I can rest assured that the teas I purchase from this man will be held to the highest standard. An assurance I am confident to pass on to my customers in the US.

We continue winding through the mountain and at each turn the view is even more beautiful then before! Once on the top, Mr. Lin has built a small gazebo in which you can experience the view 360 degrees, inspiring. He pauses a moment and I snap a picture that I believe captures the spirit of my new friend.

As we begin our descent a lite rain starts to fall and the wind becomes much colder, perfect timing as usual. Stopping along the way we finally reach the bottom where we began our hike. As we round the final bend we are greeted by a newly planted flower garden which sits on a small blue green pond and I imagine this will be even more beautiful on my next visit.

The first stage processing facility is located on the mountain and we walk back to it and watch as tea pickers arrive with their freshly harvested leaves. Again I catch a whiff of the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked tea leaves, incredible.

We walk through the much smaller facility as the leaves are being processed and head up some stairs to the drying room. Mr. Lin opens the door at the top and gestures that we cant go in because of our shoes, so I immediately take mine off. He smiles, removes his shoes and the two of us enter the room. This is a new experience for me and I don't regret for a moment walking in my bare feet! I am surrounded by drying Bai Hao Yinzhen tea leaves and their lovely aroma.

Mr. Lin leaves us for a meeting out of town and we finish our visit with a cup of tea and some business discussions before heading back down the mountain to the main factory to finalize our negotiations. I purchased every ounce of chen cha organic Bai Hao Yinzhen they have! I also purchase some of the organic Bai Mu Dan chen cha and arrange for additional teas to be shipped in 60 days once harvested and processed. I am more then pleased at the opportunities that the day has presented and to have added another quality partner in the Teas Etc. supply chain.

In the morning Mr. Lin is gracious enough to meet us to say goodbye and assure me that in 2 weeks I will have new tea samples for the production of our organic white teas for this year. He has arranged for his car to take us to the airport in Wenzhou for our flight to Nanjing. The very rare, chen cha white teas have already been packed and boxed for me and I arrange to have them sent to our Shanghai office and then the US.

This visit alone has been worth the trip, but I am certain there is more to come!

Off to Nanjing and a day of rest before we head back to the mountains of Anhui province and the green tea triangle!

Be sure to catch the pictures from this visit in a seperate blog entry!
Until next time, Beth

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