It’s getting close. To the beginning of the annual spring green tea harvests in China, Japan and Korea; and the 1st Flush black teas from the Assam and Darjeeling regions of northern India.
For retailers of premium tea such as us here at Tea Trekker, this is a very exciting time of year. The quiet days of winter here in New England allow us time to think about what teas we want/need/must have this year. So, we touch base with our colleagues and suppliers now because we know that once the tea harvest begins at the end of March and the first teas begin to leave the tea factories in China, these folks will be too frantically busy to chat at length.
So we talk about our tea needs for the upcoming season. And because we care about our colleagues and what they do, we ask about them and their families, too. Usually the tea part of each conversation goes like this:
- how are things going ?
- what’s new?
- is the weather on track for the spring season ?
- what can you tell me about predictions for the upcoming harvest ?
- do you think that can you find me some x, y & z tea this year?
- is there any reason to change the air courier this year for our air shipments of tea?
Etc, etc, etc.
Everyone is hopeful for a good harvest and no one wants to curse the delicate optimism for a good spring season with a sour note. So speculation runs high for a good harvest for the tea farmers and tea villages.
We report on changes that we would like to see in our teas this year. For some teas, we might want a certain pluck style ( mao feng vs. mao jian ), or a higher grade, or look for a nicer appearance ( better hand-work), or a better color. We always search for a more distinctive, bright taste, perhaps for a tea to be sweeter and less flat in the cup, or from an earlier spring pluck or a later spring pluck.
Etc., etc., etc.
Our initial orders – more like ‘wish lists’ – are bandied about and discussed. It is essential that we get our dibs in early as we know that the premium green teas from China, Japan and Korea are only plucked once a year during a specific time in the spring. As the spring season progress and once the leaf has grown too large, certain teas can no longer be made this year.
So, timing is of the essence; not just in the plucking schedule in the tea gardens, but for us, too, in order to make sure that we do not miss the opportunity to secure the best early season teas.
For the sweetest green teas – pre-Qing Ming or Before the Rains plucking times from China; Shincha and early spring Sencha from Japan and Sejak or Jungjak from Mt. Jiri, Hadong County, Korea ( Ujeon, the 1st plucking from Hadong, is priced in the stratosphere so we offer just a tiny amount of that ), flavorful, bright and invigorating 1st Flush Assams, Darjeelings and Nepalese tea – we must make our selections quickly. It will be a fast turn-around of tasting the samples that are air-shipped to us as soon as they arrive, immediately deciding on the teas we want, confirming the prices and quanties and OK’aying the air-shipments.
Lining up our tea purchases feels like a game of chess. Which tea producers will have what teas, and from whom do we purchase certain teas ?
There are many variables to consider. We feel like children making out a Christmas list for Santa…..Mary Lou wants Mengding Mt. Rock Essence and Bob hopes that the competition grade Tai Ping Hou Kui is wonderful again this year. We know that customer ‘A” will cry like a baby if such and such tea goes missing again this year, and oh yes, customer ‘B’ from Oklahoma has already announced that she wants x, y & z teas. And so our planning begins and our budget for purchasing tea grows larger and larger.
We think about our website, too, in this quiet time before the storm of tea deliveries begins. What changes will we make ( any suggestions, tea enthusiasts? ) to our website and how will we showcase new teas on the homepage? Which teas need a new photogaphs or more detailed text – we start to make a list! Are the teawares on the website still available and how many new teacups and teapots will we order?
We also discuss how many new teas we should add and what teas, if any, should be eliminated. We wonder, too, what teas will disappear due to weather issues, or to changes in the tea production schedule of a certain tea factory. We cross our fingers that we don’t forget anything and that a tea we want does not get snatched up by someone else.
So, until the first batches of our teas begin to arrive in mid – to late April, we will drink tea, and anticipate the arrival of spring.