Two Stubborn Guys Refuse to Compromise on Jasmine Tea

I arrived yesterday from Wu Yi Shan and was immediately greeted by my jasmine tea partner, Mr. Chen Qin Di. I wanted to have a sit-down with Mr. Chen to look over this year's production, as well as discuss future plans. Those of you who know me know how stubborn I am; if you want confirmation, just ask my wife! Well, Mr. Chen is worse than I am. I often secretly ask God why he/she deemed it necessary to make two ultra-stubborn guys at the same time. One is certainly enough to cause plenty of troubles!

For the last 3-4 years I've been grilling Mr. Chen about how we can improve on our already excellent jasmine production. His reply is always that nothing more can be done. We choose the best spring-harvested green tea, we protect it by wrapping the leaves and storing them in coolers, we carefully fire the green tea to reduce moisture to 3.5 percent prior to the initial scenting, and we use a whopping 3.35:1 ratio (335 pounds of flowers per 100 pounds of tea) for our best jasmine. He personally oversees the entire process from start to finish.

So he always says, what else do you want? He doesn't deviate a bit from tradition and the way he thinks it should be done. However, I've noticed that although our jasmines really are some of the best if not the best around (everyone else is cutting corners to save money), if we weren't working together we wouldn't be able to compete. Our jasmine profits have been slowly sinking the last few years, as I am reluctant to raise prices even though our costs continue to rise.

I made up my mind that I'm not leaving Fuzhou until I get Mr. Chen to follow my plan. He agreed that the flowers are not what they used to be due to chemical fertilization and pesticide use. In April, he agreed that we need to grow our own flowers in order to get what we want. I confirmed that I will fund the project and take full responsibility financially if it doesn't work out for whatever reason. My daughter Emily will have to do without her Wii if this falls apart!

But more importantly, I feel that there is more that we can do. Instead of machine-drying the tea between scentings, I want to go back to firing by charcoal. That's much more labor-intensive and costly, but the flavor can be improved dramatically. Fewer aromatics are lost in slow-firing than in convection-firing, which blows hot air through the tea and carries off aromatics along with moisture. Mr. Chen and I argued all day yesterday and some more this morning, from breakfast to now. Since he's older and I'm paying, he agreed to do as I say (very kindly forgetting to mention that I was the one who pushed him into using machines to speed up the process a few years ago, when my orders were growing). In any case I am very happy with the outcome. Mr. Chen knows that I am right but he needs to argue his side just out of general principal. What can a stubborn man do when caught? I would do the exact same thing!

I made him happy before he left to get my take-home tea ready. I told him he did an excellent job on this year's Jasmine Pearls and Silver Needles Jasmine and I told him that I simply cannot do without his incredible Golden Needle King, which I plan to introduce this year. He and I smiled and parted, both agreeing that I should skip lunch to avoid another heart attack.