What are some of the issues about buying tea directly from the sources?
Your everyday tea merchant worries about production or procurement issues from foreign sources. We also have to be tuned into marketing issues and the current trends so we’re not left with overstocked products that may go out of date or fall out of popularity. We must also be aware of political issues.
I, for one, did not believe in the so call anti-corruption efforts currently going on in China. After all, corruption has been like the air we breathe. It's everywhere and can’t be avoided! At least that’s the attitude of most people I meet here. But I’ve observed a new, guarded optimism even though most people would say, let’s not get our hopes up too high.
Since I have arrived almost a week ago, I have to admit that, at least at face value, there are minor changes. The high priced restaurants generally frequented by elite officials and rich folks are not only easy to get into now, but their business is downright slow. And in some cases - restaurants almost empty! The prices of luxury items like expensive Mao Tai wine have dropped in price due to the authorities order not allowing Mao Tai to be served at official functions. Officials are being encourage to “save”.
One of the luxury items is definitely Long Ching or Dragon Well tea. The prices for high quality “Ming Qian” or before “Qing Ming” Dragon Well have dropped in the general market. On the other hand, the ultra-high quality teas that are not available to the public have maintained their ultra-high prices. In at least one instance, a farmer was actually able to raise his price due to high quality in spite of the fluctuating weather condition from early warm spring and then the sudden drop in temperature followed by excessive rain.
|Google Maps - Meijiawu, Hangzhou, Zeijiang, China|
Our Meijiawu tea farm, (near Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China) has been producing our best quality Dragon Well for almost twenty years. It has been no exception to price increases over the last few years. In addition, buyers are sometimes forced to accept lower quality and high prices due to the increased demand!
This year, armed with my new-found courage learned from the general atmosphere, I inspected our harvest and found that it was about equal to last year’s production. Although the quality of the harvest was very good, there was certainly room to improve. Last year, due to high demand, the farmers in Meijiawu were in no mood to do anymore than they already have done for me, respecting our long relationship. This year, the production of our entire two grades of Dragon Well, the Lotus Heart and the Imperial Dragon Well grades equaled to 20 Kg. I had a long meeting with my farmer, Mr. Ye, and told him that I am not paying the same amount or they would have to double their efforts to increase the quality to keep their high price point. I successfully negotiated that Mr. Ye to re-sort the entire production by hand. This reduced the harvest by 5 Kg, sorting out some of the less quality leaves that would have been included previously.
I am pleased to report that I am happier with this year’s harvest of Dragon Well than the pass few years and I will be sending them home via FedEx rather than waiting for freight shipping so you can taste the remarkable results. Watch for our announcement of the arrival very soon!
Preliminary cupping of more than forty other green teas have been disappointing and I have rejected everything other than our premium quality Dragon Well.
Note: Technical difficulties (camera breaking) prevented us from adding photos to this post. Roy is getting another camera and going back up the mountain to the farm to take more pictures for the next post.