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Visiting Fujian: Sourcing Product and Meeting People

I just spent five days at the Xiamen Spring Tea Fair and then a week up in Anxi County, some of the best oolong country in the world.

The Xiamen Tea Fair is gigantic; six buildings like this:

Michael (TeaSource Operations Manager) and I standing in front of Hall A (one of six) of the Xiamen Tea Fair

The Xiamen Tea Fair is a little overwhelming. This was my fourth visit. But it was the first time for Michael and my daughter Maggy, who was our interpreter on this trip. 

The fair is about 85% tea vendors with just a few mid-sized companies. It is mostly very small companies. These are my favorite kind of tea companies. They tend to be passionate and proud about their teas. They recognize a kindred spirit in TeaSource. About 15% of the fair is taken up by tea accessories and tea packaging suppliers.

Old friends, new sources, learning and experiencing tea; that’s what these kind of sourcing trips are all about.

Old Friends

Many of our regular customers know Ms. Zhao Yujie of Puer, China; she has sent us some amazing black and puer teas from Yunnan, China. We were looking forward to seeing her on this trip. Instead, we spent some time with her husband Mr. Pan at their booth, sipping tea and catching up (it’s amazing how well tea people can communicate even when they don’t speak the same language). It was just Mr. Pan at the booth - apparently Ms. Zhao is very pregnant and not up to traveling at the moment.

Mr. Pan serving us tea

The good news is we have bought up the very last of the 2014 Big Snow Mountain puer cake and we have samples of the new teas Ms. Zhao and Mr. Pan have been producing.

SHOP THE FUJIAN TEA COLLECTION

On a side note:

As big as the Xiamen Tea Fair is, it’s not big enough to accommodate another fair/convention going on right across the plaza from the Xiamen Tea Fair: the Xiamen  Buddhist Fair.

It is entirely reasonable to have a gathering of folks of a particular faith, religion, or tradition; a place and time where like-minded people can share ideas, learn together, network, and explore materials/products that will aid them in professing or practicing their faith. 

I am sure there are such things for most Christian denominations. I just never expected to walk through one. We had to walk through the large exhibition hall that hosted Buddhist Fair each day to get to the Xiamen Tea Fair. For the record, the people were gracious, friendly, and very interesting.

Back to tea.

Exploiting your children

A sampling station at a South Korean tea vendor booth, showing a long-standing tea merchant tradition; don’t hesitate to exploit the cuteness of your children to promote your tea business (ask my daughter if you don’t believe this is a long standing tea merchant tradition).

New Tea Accessories

A sample of some of the gorgeous China porcelain we are hoping to bring into TeaSource in the next few months

This is a perfect one or two person tea set; it’s also great for mobile tea making (what this company focuses on). The quality of the porcelain and the finishes is amazing.

New Friends

I met Daniel Hong the last time I was in Fujian, and we have sourced a couple of wonderful teas through him; Golden Buddha and Happy White Plum. This trip was a chance to go into mountains of Anxi County with Daniel and spend a couple of days at their factory, walking their tea fields, and hours tasting their teas. 

Me, Mr. Lin (who supervises the cultivation and making of Daniel’s teas), Daniel, and Michael L. standing in the shade in a tea field

Fields and terraces of Ti Kwan Yin

 

The terraced rows of Ti Kwan Yin tea plants of Daniel and Mr. Lin

Learning about tea

A couple of thing I learned about tea on this trip.

First, I learned from Yan Mei Li (the maker of our fabulous Silver Needles white tea), that aging white is very much a thing in China. White tea, if stored properly, ages beautifully and develops flavor notes completely different yet complimentary to fresh white teas.  She is one of my favorite tea makers.

Second, I also learned how Yan Mei and her husband, Eldon (who makes our Big Red Robe), met and fell in love. She had a brick and mortar store on Tea Street in Xiamen, Fujian, China where she only sold her own white tea. One day she noticed a young skinny guy from Guangdong province opened a tea store next door, selling only the dark baked oolongs that he made. A year later, they were married and their tea companies joined into one company; Share & Taste the Tea. 

This photo illustrates what tea sourcing trips are like; drinking lots of tea, having fun with old and new friends, and learning about tea.

From left to right: Michael, our Operations Manager, me, “Q” who has a wonderful tea store outside London (she is also the daughter of Nigel Melican who is the preeminent tea scientist in the western world and he will be giving a presentation in our Roseville facility June 17, 2018), Yan Mei’s store manager, Yanmei herself (and her husband off to the right is serving us tea). 

This is wayyyy too much fun.

There are more reports from our Fujian trip to come.

Bill Waddington, founder

TeaSource

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