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.
They say if you want to get something done give it to someone who is busy. Why? Because it will get done. If they are in motion and are busy then the chances are their wheels are in motion to get it done. I often hear people complain about their work. Regardless of the job they complain. I see this woman who is an organic fair trade tea farmer within a coop. She has with her wood tools working in the rain and I wonder if her tea “lot” which is about the size of a typical small office is back breaking work or is it back building. The sense of minding your field/work is inspiring to watch. So here she is in the rain getting it done. Checking her crop, observing the soil and using the tools shes got. This is her responsibility and what she picks she gets paid for in a fair way. Its a healthy exchange. It’s a balance of nature and of course depending on what she yields, but her time and energy are important factors here.
Does she work for herself? I often hear about people wanting to work for themselves. I am not sure there is such a thing. We work for our customers, family, status, coworkers, etc. and what Dr. Csikszentmihal calls that wonderful state of “flow“. I also observe back in the States how often people wait to put their real efforts and time in when they can have the payoff down the line. We don’t always know when that time comes but it starts with harnessing the moment and proving to yourself what you are capable of achieving. Don’t wait to prove it later. The most successful business people and athletes I know are not competing with others rather they are competing with improving and bettering themselves. Essentially take what you got, your “lot” so to speak and make it better. If you are given a job find the beauty in the task at hand.
The future great crops that we reap start as early as seeds and need focus, balance effort and attention every step of the way. I look at this woman and am reminded that in this world with these creations of life, it’s not just about the reward but the act of really being present and aware.
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.
Tea has its traditional time and place – from carefully choreographed tea ceremonies to afternoon tea with its delicious sandwiches, cakes, and pastries. Even the simplicity of enjoying a cup of tea on a chilly day is a tradition in and of itself.
But, to every yin there is a yang, and for every appropriate time and place to enjoy a cup of tea there is also a comical, wildly inappropriate counter-scenario. Art of Tea brings you a brief guide of unusual places to hold your afternoon tea party.
1. A football game: A brief Google search of “drinking tea and football” yielded a long list of drinking games of the alcoholic variety but nothing involving tea. Not surprising. I say, rock the boat, buck tradition, challenge convention. The next time you host Sunday night football try serving up some cucumber sandwiches (sans crust, of course) and a piping hot pot of tea. It’s about time civility was introduced to the world of football. You and your friends will be golf clapping touchdowns in no time. Take it to the next level by bringing along a hot thermos of your favorite brew to the football stadium. What better accessory to your oversized foam hand and beer gut than a nice hot cup of tea?
2. The Mad Tea Party ride at Disneyland: Worth it just for the irony. You can soothe whatever first-degree burns you sustain from the ride by (again with the irony) placing a wet tea bag directly on the burn – the tannic acid will help draw heat from the area.
3. Nascar: Apparently the folks at Lipton are a step ahead of us. Their website recommends their customers to “Combine your love for Lipton® Iced Tea and NASCAR® by getting the FREE NASCAR®-Licensed Pitcher. Whether you’re watching this week’s race or are just enjoying a lazy afternoon on the porch, nothing will refresh you like some Lipton® Iced Tea.” Can’t really argue with that. But what about some hot premium cave-aged pu-erh? It’s been known to decrease physical stress, this way you can enjoy a stress-free race (even when your driver’s car does somersaults down the track.)
4. The bar: Throw everyone for a loop by indulging in a mild caffeine buzz from Art of Tea’s organic classic black tea. And no, a hot toddy is not considered a tea.
5. The sauna: Prove just how hardcore you are by kicking your sauna experience up a notch. Fill that same thermos you took to the football game with piping hot Lotus Flower – naturally caffeine free, it’s been attributed to relaxation and other health benefits. Ahhhhh.
There is a certain peace of mind that comes with drinking a freshly steeped cup of tea. Today at the Art of Tea we had 4 potential wholesale customers visiting our warehouse and enjoying tea together. By chance, two were of Arabic descent and the other two were from Israel. All four found a sense of peace and a deep sense of joy and camaraderie in sharing tea together. The common thread was how they all looked back at tea as a part of a their childhood experience, saying that “it was always around” and “I remember my grandparents making me tea” and “It is part of our culture.”
One person on each side shared a common way of leaving a bit of tea in their cup as to not let the taste or sense to come to an end. To them an empty tea cup was likened to an ending. While the other two agreed that not finishing their tea was disrespectful and the liquid contents in the cup must be consumed in its entirety.
It was agreed that tea is the gap between nations, religions, genders and cultures. We can learn alot from the slowing process of sitting and allowing the tea to take in its positive effects on our state of mind and body and reveal our own sense of humanity and intelligence as stated so poetically “Two Kinds of Intelligence” in the book Essential Rumi
Two Kinds of Intelligence
There are two kinds of intelligence: One acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.
With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.
There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,
and it doesn’t move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.
This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.
Version by Coleman Barks