Sunday, March 30, 2008

From Wenzhou to Nanjing

The drive from Fuding to Wenzhou is really lovely, quaint countryside. When we arrive in Wenzhou it is obvious that this is a wealthy area, very well maintained roads and parks and lots of fancy cars, one that we avoid because it is driving very erratically.

The airport is nothing like the city very old and very small but easy to navigate. You know its a good thing that Amy has me to find our way! Despite the very foggy weather our flight leaves on time and are glad when the plane lands in Nanjing, the flight got very bumpy, not fun.

We check in at the Nanjing Jinling hotel and get settled in our very nice accomadations. Off to my favorite tailor to place an order and then back to the hotel. The weather is cold, cloudy and very dreary so we are in for the night. Maybe we will do a little shopping tomorrow before leaving for Huangshan on Monday, weather permitting.

Until next time, Beth

White Tea Mountain Photos

Photos from Fuding Mountain and the Organic Gardens

Narrow pass on the drive up


New garden at the base of the "tea" mountain



The pride of a job well done

Amy and the gang on our way up


The six organic gardens


Organic teas in spring





Looking down the backside of the mountain from the garden



Bring the leaves to the factory


Freshly picked leaves


Inside the drying room





White Tea Factory Photos

Meeting our hosts, Mr. Lin and Ms Hang



Drying Bai Hao Leaves





Tea Processing




Cupping and selecting teas Organic Bai Hao Xin Cha (New Tea)



Lunch Views

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

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tea Reserach Institute and Tea Gardens

After a delicious lunch we make the trip up into the mountains for a rare opportunity to visit the Tea Research Institute Fujian Academy of Agriculture Sciences! Not open to the public Mr.Li's partner knows someone at the institute so we get an inside look.

The mountains are lovely. When we enter the gates a large stone statue of Lu Yu is appropriately located in the courtyard of the institute. Lu Yu is the father of tea and my personal hero.

As we get close to the entrance I encounter a familiar smell, the sweet, intoxicating aroma of freshly heated tea leaves. There is no other aroma quite like it and I pause for a moment to capture and inhale this delightful perfume. There is no way to describe this scent or to reproduce it that I know of, I wish I could share it with you because it is amazing!

We enter the institute and find a man and woman making tea and watch as they prepare the freshly harvested leaves. After observing for a while and checking out the place we head to the mountains for a closer look at the tea plants.

This is my favorite part and definitely the reason I love to visit China. We head up the mountains and before long the steep climb has warmed us up. In every direction there is nothing but tea, each hill, mountain and valley all tea! A beautiful stream runs along side the mountains below and I take it all in, beautiful.

I wish the pictures could capture the beauty of a tea garden at least I hope that you enjoy the pictures 1/2 as much as I enjoyed the day.

Until next time, Beth


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Making Flowering Teas in Fujian

Mr. Li picks us up first thing in the morning and we are off to the factory where we are able to meet the rest of the staff, see their current facility expansion and see how these exceptional works of art are produced.

The process for making these teas is done completely by hand. The leaves are selected and individually gathered together, cut and tied. Once this preparation is complete the individual flowers are hand sewen into the leaves. If no additional flowers are going to be added the teas are then set on drying trays and placed on a rack inside a drying machine.

The atmosphere at the factory is very friendly and down to earth. The artist making the teas are quick to share a "hello" and a smile with me. Each place you visit in China has its own energy and this one is good. You can sense that this is an easy going, comfortable place to work.

We go to another area of the factory where a different variety of flowering teas are being produced and Amy and I each make a flowering tea, sewing on the flower blossom to the already formed tea leaves. As most things the workers make a hard task look easy and Amy and I decide we better keep our day jobs.

Mr. Li is also quite nice and very down to earth. We have the opportunity to cup some incredible teas before heading out to lunch and the tea institute. The new flowering tea I have selected is really cool, it is actually blossoms from the tea plant! Camellia Beauty, the name, will arrive out our warehouse in mid May. I am also very fond of the spring Bai Hao Yinzhen, one more tea to consider as I select the best teas for sale back in the US.

Bai Hao Yinzhen
New flowering tea, Camellia Beauty, arriving in May



Watching these beautiful teas being made




Arriving in Fujian Province

We arrive in Fuzhou and are met by our driver, sent by Mr Li whose company sells us the beautiful flowering teas. The flight to Fuzhou was uneventful and I am looking forward to the 2 hour drive to Fuan. Driving like this is always a great opportunity to see the countryside.

When we finally arrive at our hotel Mr. Li is there to greet us with a room key in hand. The three of us go to dinner and discuss the following days agenda; a visit to the processing factory, the tea institute and the gardens.

Off to sleep to prepare for a great day tomorrow!

Until tomorrow, Beth

West Lake Photos









Plum Blossoms












One of several lake statues











Images throughout West Lake
















Spring Time in West Lake


All settled in at the fabulous Hyatt Hangzhou after a very hectic day traveling by train we are really excited about the day ahead at West Lake.

Hangzhou's West Lake area is consider to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in China and spring makes it even more appealing. The plum blossoms are in bloom and the gardens are breathtaking.

We spent the afternoon just enjoying everything the area has to offer. The last time I was in Hangzhou was during the spring festival which occurs in late April and is an important holiday when many Chinese travel domestically, Hangzhou being one of if not the most popular place to visit. Needless to say on my last trip it was so crowded with people I did not enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

I took tons of great pictures and tried to upload them but am not able to, something with my connection? Which sometimes happens here....will post some eventually!

Back to business tomorrow cupping teas in Hangzhou, until next time, Beth

Cupping Teas in Hangzhou

I was looking forward to cupping teas in Hangzhou because I can always depend on Paul to source some good early spring Dragon Well's and he came thru as always. We spent the morning sampling several different grades including one from ancient trees.

There really is nothing that taste like a good early spring Long Jing and the aroma, I love it. Since the last time I visited with Paul he has gotten married and has a new baby and we enjoyed catching up.

With limited time on our hands and gifts to get for people back home I wanted to get some shopping in. About 1 1/2 blocks from Paul's shop there is a great street market that I have enjoyed in the past. Very traditional Chinese looking market with plenty of stuff to choose from so I picked up a couple of things to include in the box I am shipping home.

One thing I have learned traveling in China is first I seem to collect things everywhere I go. Second those things get heavier the further into the trip I get and third and most important, EMS is the best way for me to ship things back at different intervals to lighten the load!

I finish the visit with Paul and check out of the hotel to meet with another supplier to cup some organic teas then off to the airport to Fujian province for a few days.

I am excited about visiting the Fuzhou, Fuding areas of Fujian province because it is new territory for me and that is always fun.

Until next time, Beth

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More Bi Lo Chun Pictures

PICTURES FROM EAST MOUNTAIN AND BI LO CHEN FACTORY

Beautiful freshly processed Bi Lo Chun











Selecting leaves











Processing the leaves by hand





Eating Like Royalty

After visiting East Mountain we were invited to join our hosts along with the Chairman of the Shanghai Tea Council, Mr. Chen (yes another Mr. Chen) for lunch at the renowned, historic Suzhou restaurant, De Yue Lou. Dating back to the Qing Dynasty the restaurant was beautifully updated with 3 floors of exceptional eating.

The owner of the restaurant was gracious enough to join us and we spent the next couple of hours enjoying one of the best meals I have ever had. The presentation was worthy of photographs so I got my tourist on and started taking pictures (see below).

At one point Amy asked me if I knew what I was eating and I kindly replied "no and don't tell me now, tell me later". When we talked about it later that day I knew I had made the right choice! Regardless everything I ate was fabulous and I would do it all again without a second thought.

As the toasts, cheers and good wishes wrapped up we took some more photos and said our good bye's and spent the rest of the gorgeous day walking Suzhou city, the weather is sunny and really nice.

Until next time, Beth

LUNCH PICTURES




















Mr.Chen and I











Mr. Chen, Mr. Wu and I