After 14h on bus coming from south of Yunnan ( near Myanmar borders ) we dropping our bags in hotel and go for dinner. Its too late for tea market so we are leaving it for the next day.
In our hotel reception I spotted few bags of tea and ask about it. The woman ( owner of hotel ) is apparently also doing tea business and as it happens ” How lucky we are!” , her brother has a tea garden with old tea trees 🙂
Well, it’s important to know , in China , people here all brothers and sisters and after few smart questions we are finding out that actually she just a has friend works in tea factory and trying to make some extra cash so passing over some samples to her to push it to hotel customers.
Good beginning, already looking forward all those stories I’m going to hear in market tomorrow.
Next day, right after the breakfast we heading to market. Its a bit of walk from town but greedy “tuk tuk” drivers gives are no other choice. We are getting into the first tea shop.
With testing the local famous Fengqing black tea we have to also listen all those same stories about how they have their own plantation, how their tea is organic and others is not etc.
What entertains me most is the box with Ye Sheng Hong says ” tea from 1600 years old tree” with price tag 460CNY for 1kg:-) ( just regret I didn’t take a picture of it that time ) I wonder how much would be a price from this kind of tee in real , but can’t resist temptation to try it.
It’s a regular black tea from bush ( table ) tea leafs mixed with “ya bao” to make a sweet front taste but cant cover up the raw potato taste. Yep, that’s what was the taste of many local teas in the market and we were told : ” this is the flavor we like, we get use to drink this taste”. The unpleasant scent of boiling raw potato can be experienced from the hot gai wan lid and also during many infusions.
The truth is, as we learn after, this discomfort odor comes from the bad processing of tea. Very low temp. and short time heat post processing in order to keep the tea leafs and buds “beautiful” has an opposite effect in taste. And as they all here pretend to be doing the black tea for 10 or 20 years, the actual fact is less than half , and so does the experience.
Very trendy marketing strategies are popping out from every 2nd shop. The one of the funniest one is “Dan Zhu Hong or Pu-erh tea” ….tea from one tree. So I just asked tea boss whether he can distinguish if the tea comes from 1 or 2 trees 🙂 After few more “itchi” questions he turned to be more honest 🙂
We are going trough the shops one by one , choosing the right one to sit in and try their tea. When we just trying one qiao mu hong ,the small truck from Bao Shan comes over and driver starts to offload boxes of tea. Im curious and going to have a look. Jin Ya, Jin Luo, Da Song Zhen, Jin Si…etc. , all those famous Feng Qing types of tea in Baoshan version coming out from the back of his truck . And , yes, in very low price. Grannie is not happy with quality but when getting a few boxes for almost nothing and reselling few kg to some Shang Hai tea tourists for 5x price saying its local Feng Qing Hong Cha, she is not complaining anymore. We just sitting at the corner and quietly observing all this show how locals do the “real” business.
We are tired of the market, after seeing this I just want to leave from this town at once. Getting sick of that “game” based on lies , tricks and cheats. I knew the tea business is tricky and Chinese people are “smart”, but didn’t expect this.
We are leaving the market and decided to try one of the local tea factories. Getting invited and for the starter old boss with his son offering try some Gu Shu Cha. After few cups I’m not happy , feels like just regular bush tea. Saying this to my wife in English which happens the young son understood and passed the message to grandpa.
Reaction was immediate! Grandpa called his “servant” to bring another tea. this time I brew it my self and getting the right sweet buzz under my tongue:-) After few infusions we are getting in price discussion and old man offering ridiculous price with words: ” I see u understand the tea, u know your self , this one is real old tree tea. As I see u are experienced , I wouldn’t dare to ripping you off” .
Well , said that, Im just reacting with half price , saying Im respecting him being honest , but this kind of tea Im getting much cheaper. Without blinking an eye grandpa comes up with 50% discount 🙂
After a while new customers are coming and worker taking them to another room. Old man is taking the same pu-erh “gu shu” ( the 1st one ) and adding on side of try a bit of the real “gu shu” ( the 2nd one ) , and like a child trying cover it with his body this act when spotted that we are seeing that.
“Is he for real?” I’m asking my wife. I couldn’t understand how boss of big tea factory can behave like this?
We are getting to the black tea tasting. Their tea is ok, without any “potato notes” but price is similar or even higher as on the local market. Another day gone and we still didn’t get our black tea supplier. We almost giving up.
Next day after breakfast we decided just to wander around the town. Its bit messy and noisy from the small old trucks. Granny picking up the fresh tea leafs from bush beside road and drying them on small try in front of her shop, gives kinda authentic feeling that we are in the Tea Town, but we still haven’t figure out how to go around all those lies and cheats.
As we walking around I see a man offloading the tea on the path in front of the tea shop. We have chat with him and finding out , he is the farmer who supplies some tea shops in town. Without hesitation we asking about his farm and getting an offer to visit.
When we got there, we are learning about him ( Mr.Wu ) and his wife.
They used to sell the fresh green leafs from their tea garden to the local big tea factory.
Didn’t take long when they realized options of their own tea business and set up a small tea manufacture.
Mr. Wu got him self employed in cooperated factory first, to get an experience with processing the tea ( since he was just picking fresh leafs up to that time ) and few years later bought a second hand equipment for tea processing.
It is hard for them to compete with big tea factories around,
but as we observed their garden with production , there is no sign of chemicals, pesticides so we decided to choose them as our Feng Qing black tea supplier.