Panda Plucked Tea

In Ya’an and Leshan Prefectures in central Sichuan Province, China, wild pandas have been reported rampaging through area tea gardens in isolated mountain locations, tearing wildly at tender leaf growth on the tea bushes. This unusual behavior is rarely documented, but is being blamed in part by the recent spate of drought conditions in western China.  Rain is crucial to both the growth of bamboo and of course, fresh tea leaf.

This is the most sensitive time of the year in the tea gardens. The early spring tea harvest is underway and the leaves are the smallest and most tender, and, no doubt, the tastiest to the pandas. Our Sichuan colleagues have told us that tea workers are desperately trailing along behind the marauding pandas ( at safe distances ) in order to pick up and salvage as many of the discarded tea leaves as possible and bring them to the tea factories for processing. Whenever the pandas are spotted moving into the tea gardens, the tea pluckers move away to keep a safe distance from the usually secretive and shy animals. Everyone is hoping for minimal damage to the tea bushes in the gardens during this strange event.

This leaf is being processed and marketed as Panda Plucked Tea. When can we expect to receive a shipment of this special tea ?  See below.




Gottcha !

April Fools Prank !

Tea hee hee….


Pu-erh Tea Auction in Beijing, China

For those of you with Christmas shopping still to finish, the auction company China Guardian will soon be holding their 24th Quarterly Auction on December 18 – 20th in Beijing, China. The auction features splendid examples of fine Chinese art, including Painting and Calligraphy, Porcelain,  Jade, and Furniture as well as separate collections of Moutai Liquor and Pu-erh tea.

Each lot of Pu-erh tea is photographed on the the China Guardian website. It is very interesting to spend a little time perusing these images and reviewing the pre-auction estimates for each lot of tea.  I wonder who will purchase these beeng chas and tongs of tea and what will become of them?  How many will be drunk among a select group of knowledgeable connoisseurs and how many will continue to reside untouched in a well-maintained collection?

To roughtly calculate the auction estimates in USA dollars, divide the amount listed in RMB by 8.

Please follow this link to view the Pu-erh auction listings:

Fang Cun Tea Market, Guangzhou, China

This spring we visited the Nanfang Tea Market ( also called the Fang Cun Tea Market ) in the Fang Cun district of Guangzhou city, Guangdong Province, China. This is the largest wholesale tea market in the world – easily estimated at well over 1,000 tea vendors. The vast neighborhood surrounding this market is also chock-a-block with tea businesses so our colleagues gave an educated guess that the total number of tea sellers in this district is just over 3,000. The aroma in this area is overwhelmingly ‘tea’ accompanied by good food smells from food vendors and restaurants.

Guangzhou is the city that the English named Canton during the heyday of the China tea trade in the 1700’s.Today, Guangzhou remains an important tea trading center, but only documents, pictures, artifacts, and the history itself remain from those tumultuous tea trading days. I had hoped to find some of the old warehouse buildings still standing but all traces of them have vanished.

We stayed on Shamian Island which was in good proximity to the tea market.  I was surprised to see quite a few American and English couples in this part of the city, and even though there was a large percentage of Westerners in evidence, the local folks seemed to check us out more intently than usual. It did not take us long to figure out that just down the street from the hotel was a Chinese adoption center and most couples were there to finalize their adoption. We, of course, were there for tea, so we strangely felt a bit out of place. Then I realized that the old ladies that we saw as we came and went about our business were looking at us to see if we had received our little bundle of joy.  Hmmm…say, how about a nice bouncing baby……Pu-erh ?

The Nanfang Tea Market is a ‘city of tea’ and nearly every tea made in China can be found here. We had been lusting to visit this place since we learned of it on our first tea sourcing trip to China and this year, the opportunity came our way. We were not disappointed.

The ‘market’ is comprised of a dizzying maze of ‘streets’ filled with individually-owned tea and teawares shops. Many of these shops are owned by tea farmers and tea factories, so the competition for business is great. Fortunately, we were with colleagues who guided us during our visit. Otherwise, we might still be wandering around there – drinking tea.


Did we find some tea treasures to sell?  Why, yes we did. Our discoveries from this market will be arriving in the next week and we will announce their arrival as soon as we can. We’ll give you a hint though – the teas are all dark and are very special.  Guesses ?

Back from tea buying in Asia

We have just returned from our whirlwind May tea and teawares buying trip to Korea, Japan and China.

Most importantly, we accomplished all that we set out to achieve on this trip, including securing batches of new 2010 Chinese spring green teas and 2010  Japanese Shincha (first-pluck) and meeting with potential new suppliers. We met several tea growers who are eager to sell us their tea, and their dedication to their craft and their tea makes us happy to oblige.

In fact, all of our new China spring green tea ( Jiu Hua Shan Fo Cha, Immortal Goddess, Jing Shan Hao Ya, Long Ding, Lu Shan Clouds & Mist; Gu Zhu Zi Sun; Gan Lu;  and our two yellow teas, Huo Shan and Huang Ya; and our Japan Shincha ( Fukamushi Shincha, Hashiri Shincha ) ) made it back to the store before we did. ( The Longjing arrived before we left.)

All the tea has been checked in, priced and listed on our website,  Just look for the 2010 Spring tea category. ( For all our Sencha fans, we were not able to bring back any Sencha and the wait will be a little bit longer. Cold weather in Japan has delayed the harvest time by several weeks in most places. The Sencha had not even begun to be harvested when we left Japan in mid-May).

But, we did find two extraordinarily fragrant and delicious Fenghuang Dan Cong teas that will not be priced in the stratosphere. But we must all be patient; as they will not arrive until later this summer. We also tasted a spectacular late spring Anxi Tieguanyin  and are trying to negotiate the price. The supply is very small this year due to the bad weather in Fujian and the farmer we met is in no hurry to name his price ! Stay tuned.

Nevertheless, we stuffed our suitcases with as much lovely, small sheng Pu-erh cakes (and a few other goodies ) as we could and we prayed that they would not be sniffed out by the security dogs. Sniffed or not, the tea arrived unscathed and will be posted on our website soon.

On this trip we were not in the tea fields or tea factories but visited with and talked at length to many people who are involved with tea in different ways. I am still getting my thoughts together regarding the conversations we had with tea masters, Korean and Japanese potters,  tea sellers, tea growers, those who specialize in aged teas and others who specialize in roasting oolongs. There is so much to say about such a full and exhausting experience;  I will sort out the details and try to do it justice to it over the course of several upcoming posts.

This is how my mind feels right now:


And I need to wait until it gets back like this:

As students of tea we are awed by the knowledge and refinement of information that we gain from our colleagues in Asia on each of these trips.  We have finally come to the place in our understanding of tea where we are able to appreciate the nuance and variables that exists within tea and tea culture.

This knowledge and awareness  comes naturally to our Asian tea colleagues who are surrounded daily by this type of chatter, but for us, most  of the conversations that we have in China or Japan cannot happen here in the USA because there are very few people here who are versed in such topics. So, we rely on our colleagues abroad to breathe a transfusion of this life into us each time we return.

No matter how much one knows on any subject, there is always more to know and more importantly, to understand. We had a blast gathering new information for future tea books and refining what we already know.  Best of all, we had the time to really talk to colleagues, ask them a million questions, and find out what interests them about tea and what they do.

So, we have returned, armed with great tea, new opportunities, and many new topics to share in the coming months with our tea enthusiast customers and readers.

Pu-erh tea in Bon Appetit magazine


In the May issue of Bon Appetit magazine, Associate Editor Elisa Huang has put the spotlight on Pu-erh tea in her Starters / health wise column. This is great news and something important, as Bon Appetit enjoys the largest circulation and readership of any of the top food magazines.  This is the first time, as far as I know, that a national food magazine has devoted space to Pu-erh.

There is so much about Pu-erh that seems mysterious, and we encounter many tea enthusiasts in our shop who are unsure or skeptical about it. As expected, those who try it usually love it and become quite impassioned about it. Perhaps this attention from Bon Appetit will help unravel some of the misgivings and encourage readers to give this historic and delicious beverage a try.

We are also thrilled that our new book: The Tea Enthusiast: A Guide to Enjoying the World’s Best Teas was mentioned as well as our website. We devote an entire chapter in our book to Pu-erh ( both the sheng and shou varieties and what the differences are ) and all of the reasons why it is so special, important and delicious.

Please click here to read about our book

And here to see our selection of sheng and shou Pu-erh: