Shop Ms. Zhang's tea collection HERE.
I don’t think of myself as a tea master, I’m just a long-time student of tea. But I get to hang out with tea masters. For three days this month I got to be with Ms. Zhang Liumie, who is a co-founder of Yiqingyuan Tea LTD, Changsha China, and a tea scientist respected throughout China. Ms. Zhang and her daughter (aka charming translator) were in the Twin Cities for three days this month to share some new teas, talk opportunities, and teach about Dark Tea. We had a great visit and had a chance to taste a bunch of new teas and show Ms Z and Joy what tea stores in the U.S. are like. We started by visiting the TeaSource in Eden Prairie, MN and Ms. Z asked if she could try something she had never had before. To me this is a sign of a really smart person, someone who looks to experience something new and unfamiliar. So we shared a pot of Ceylon Burning Sun from the Lumbini Estate. Ms Z and Joy were very impressed. The next day we talked a lot about Dark Tea. Then I invited Ms Z and Joy to help us evaluate about 30 Indian teas we had just received from this year’s harvest. This was kind of fun because, despite her brilliance Ms Z. wasn’t that familiar with Indian teas. But it was still a learning experience, cupping teas with her. Ms Z and I getting ready to cup and evaluate around 30 very fresh Indian teas. She really makes me think I have to re-evalutate the TeaSource dress code A whole lot of slurping going on; with Michael and Joy in the background.[/caption] The real highlight of their visit was a 30 minute Livestream broadcast by Ms. Z and Joy, talking about Dark Tea. How often do folks get the chance to listen, learn, and interact with the person who actually made the tea they are drinking? We opened this presentation to folks in the Twin Cities region to participate; so folks could actually listen to a tea master, they could taste (real-time) some very cool unique dark teas, and also so Ms. Z had someone to talk to (Livestreaming by yourself is not as easy as it seems). Getting ready to do the Livestream; Ms Z, Joy, Sarah C, and me. I had only given Ms Z about 2 days notice she was doing this presentation. Talk about grace under pressure Here we go !!![/caption] Just a reminder to everyone; this Livestream broadcast should be available in the Livestream archives through mid-August 2014. And please remember we try to do at least one of these Livestream events every month, and they’re interactive. Ms Z tearing into a log of 100 Taels tea. This is a compressed tea that is hand-wrapped with bamboo and then left to age. Everyone was learning a lot and tasting a lot of teas. I’ve known Ms Z and Joy for around six years. Joy has spent Christmas with my family. Lovely, kind, and smart people. Ms Z reminds of Michelle Yeoh (the female lead in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-with a dash of Margaret Thatcher thrown in). I am very glad to have her as a friend and teacher. And we were having, maybe, too much fun. I guess you call this a mother-daughter routine. Everyone was really having a good time; it’s so much fun to learn from people who really know what they are talking about. A couple of the teas we tasted, 100 Taels tea (in the background) and our Fu cha brick (in the foreground). This is our Hei Cha dark tea cubes, from 2011 (remember all Dark teas get better as they age), and this really impressed Ms Z. The golden flowers were very prominent and the flavor was very smooth and meadow-y. Ms. Z commented that it was better than the Hei Cha she had back in China, which is ironic since I had bought this from her in 2011. So I sent her home with some. That felt good. Joy, me, Ms Z, and Michael
A lot of people assume the coolest part of my job is playing with tea all day (and that is definitely very cool). But the absolute best part of my job is all the people I’ve met along the tea road. -Bill