So the 4 hour trip to the Private Reserve in Wuyishan Mountain Fujian China turned to an 8 hour car ride. Side Note: Its amazing how many dialects their are along the way. About 6 hours into the trip Mr. Zhan, our driver for the majority of the trip, drops us off at a random point and we meet with another driver that looks like he is about 28. I find out later that he is one of the tea managers of the organic estate we work with and will be visiting. A very humble man and a real salt of the earth person which we will discuss in another post. We began making our way through Wuyi Mountain range and was blown away by the landscape. Later we switched cars again to a 4×4 to handle the terrain and to reach a checkpoint.
Mr. Bei is the tea master of this fair trade estate in Southern China. The way it works at this estate is that there is no central garden rather various lots dotted across campus so to speak. Each location is close to a small production facility or satellite where the teas are quickly dried to prevent oxidization. It is a cooperative effort with many of the villagers putting their strength to work so tea master Mr. Bei can craft our fine teas. According to tea master Mr. Bei there are only 14 days of harvest each year at this location for high quality white teas and green teas. Depending on weather conditions the remaining crops can be made into black teas. The rains came late this year followed by cold weather which have caused the production to drop by 60% compared to previous years. This also means a price increase and a waiting game of bidding. This is where the relationship comes in and cooperation on many levels to ensure fair prices and fair wages for great quality products.
Plenty of cheers and toasts at lunch today back at the Fair Trade tea estate after visiting the school, most of which were short blasts of warm words in local dialect which I couldn’t understand but I smiled broadly and clicked glasses. Granted, I am a light weight when it comes to alcohol and after a few toasts of beer in a little shot glass I got a little giddy.
So, I thought I’d share my own toast with a L’Chaim. L’Chaim in Hebrew means “To life” or in other words to remain healthy with a bit of luck thrown in there. Saying l’chaim with a slight guttural roll in the back of the throat for the “ch” part caused a momentary ripple in the room, but after saying a few times everyone was rocking out the l’chaims, laughing and adding their own words of wellness. Joining us at the table was the Chief of the farming community. A powerful woman in her own right with 600 farmers voting her in as their leader and voice for great teas in this region.
While lunch was rolling on the estate manager turned to me and in a low humble voice he asked me, “Are we friends?”
Then it hit me.
We eat. We share. We feel good and we do business in China as friends. 90% of success in business transactions done anywhere is based on trust. You want to make sure that you can stand by your product or service time and again. Friends will watch your back and make sure you are getting a reliable product.
Are we friends? I responded. Yeah, of course we are friends.
If you are ever having a bad day just look at this picture. These kids are all smiles. Except for the one with the corn in her mouth caught during a storm of kids bombarding the camera at lunch time. Otherwise I thought I felt like a rock star just being there and they certainly shined at the photo opp. Their school built in part by Art of Tea participating in buying tea from this Fair Trade project feels good knowing that they get a good education and learn in well lite, spacious and clean environment. It really started with a good intention and a team of people that believed in a better opportunity. It’s simple really or rather really simple. We will explore the process later and meet with potential Fair Trade opportunities in future posts.
Being a pretty tall foreigner the kids were a little standoffish but slowly warmed up as I just put my hand out for a high five. They all took dares at being the first on to give me a high five and as the crowd started to gather of course the kid with snot running down his nose gave me the first high five. That opened the gates so to speak of a rush of high fives. Later, I did a little improv English lesson with them and was impressed with the fact that these kids know way more English than I know Mandarin. I will post the video later on this experience as I have no access as in this part of China to YouTube, Twitter or Facebook.
Today we visited with the manager of one of the coop fair trade tea estates that we work with and got a private tour of the school. This school was built by TransFair Fair Trade Tea Program. We are happy to say that we as in you and me/our customers have contributed to this fantastic cause. So essentially first hand you can witness the difference between buying fair trade tea and non fair trade tea.
The school is fairly large. To give perspective it is similar in size to Hamilton High in Los Angeles which was the scene of 90210 in the 90’s and other tv shows. The school borders the old property which was essentially shacks. Now the kids have a beautiful place to learn while being surrounded by mountains, mist, a river and tea. The kids are from parents who participate in the tea coop and I was happy to hear that 30 kids a year later go on to college after graduating this school.
After spending a year in a peace corp type program in the Middle East working directly with povershed communities, schools and kids, I feel confident that I can get a strong sense on how legit a program may be running. I was happy to say that the grounds seemed positive, well kept and the kids are happy. More to come on this with a video interview of the principal, interaction with the kids and going back to meet Tea Master Bei at the estate.
There is this thought that I’d like to share that keeps coming to mind while on this trip. Which is the exploration of Altruism…and if altruism really exists.
If not then can we feel good knowing that we are doing well while doing good? I’d like to think this is the happy medium.
Let me know what you think. Meantime take a look out for more to come.
I have been on an whirlwind trip to various parts in Southern China visiting farms and sampling many teas, I must report a remarkable new tea find. After sampling this one tea which quickly grabbed my attention I asked the farmer the name and he quickly responded that this is a new tea to market with no name. I asked if I could name it. He smiled and offered the opportunity of a lifetime…
Wild Honey Sprout
Here is how I would describe it:
These white tea buds are hand harvested deep in the forest of Fujian Mountains. The process begins with nature first blanketing these rare and unique buds in morning dew before they are carefully hand picked and then hot air dried. These wild tea buds are thick and slightly spiraled in a longitudinal direction with an uninhibited white and golden down surface.
The steeped infusion reveals a light caramel color with flavor notes of acorn squash, banana bread and honeydew melon. This tea can be steeped multiple times and is a must for the most seasoned tea aficionado.
This tea is now available on our site and is available by clicking here.
Please share your comments and feedback on this new find.
This video demonstrates our environmental dedication with TreePeople on planting trees, providing community outreach and education. Moving forward together, we advance with giant steps to survive and thrive with strong environmental efforts one tree and one sip at a time. Buy a Green Pear Tea Tin and Support TreePeople and Art of Tea’s Efforts.
Happy October Fellow Art of Tea Drinkers! Join us on a journey of knowledge and appreciation this month as we raise our tea cups in honor of Fair Trade month! As I write this newsletter, I am enjoying a nice cup of our yummy Egyptian Chamomile tisane, which just so happens to be one of our featured fair trade teas this month…exciting! As I gently sip my hot cup of chamomile flavored goodness, it has me wondering about how many of us have actually stopped to think about where the tea we drink actually comes from and how that impacts our society and the world we live in.
Here are just a few reasons why fair trade practices are so important to Art of Tea. Fair trade practices help producers in under-developed countries have greater opportunities to acquire the resources they need to improve their livelihood. Sustainable development protects against land loss by promoting environmentally friendly processes which in turn creates a healthy working environment for producers. Fair trade practices also promote fair wages for workers, gender equality and fights against child labor. Pretty cool huh?
So the next time you reach for your cup of tea, take comfort in the fact that Art of Tea is on a determined path to make sure that each one of their ingredients will someday be sourced solely from sustainable fair trade practices.
We take a look at Art of Tea’s relationship with the manufacturer of their iced tea equipment, Wilbur Curtis, a leader in the commercial foodservice beverage equipment industry for over 60 years.
Even the environmentally friendly fork is compostable and is made out of potato starch!