The Journal

After experiencing some connection issues with Jeff on Monday, we going to try again tomorrow evening to have Jeff joins us live from his home in northwestern Yunnan's 'Shangri-La'.

Connectivety in China can be challenging but we have done a few more tests and came up with a few tricks to limit any possible issues. All test were succesful and feel very confidant for tomorrows broadcast. Here is test mesage we recorded earlier:

Join us right here at 9pm (EST) and 6pm (PST). A few minutes prior to the start, you will be able to view the broadcast in a video that we'll place right here. You can ask your questions in the comment section or by emailing aurelien@jalamteas.com.

You can also join the discussion as a live member of the broadcast. It works much like a video conference call on Skype. Jeff and other participants will be able to see you and you will be able to ask your questions directly to Jeff on video

Only the first 8 people to email aurelien@jalamteas.com will be able to join as an active participants as we have limited "seats" for this option. Reserve your spot quickly!

The JalamTeas Team

 

Continue Reading ›

UPDATE: Unfortunately we are having technical difficulties. Jeff is ready to go however he can't connect to the Google video service used to broadcast. The challenge of Internet in China. We have tested a few times during the last few days and even a few hours ago; all without any trouble but now are having no luck. Sorry. We are still committed to making a live broadcast session and will try to reschedule something very soon. - Aurelien and the JalamTeas Team

 

Later today Jeff Fuchs will be taking your questions live from his home in northwestern Yunnan's 'Shangri-La'.

Join us right here at 9pm (EST) and 6pm (PST). A few minutes prior to the start, you will be able to view the broadcast in a video that we'll place right here.

 

 

You can ask your questions in the comment section or by emailing aurelien@jalamteas.com.

For this first session we are also try something very innovative. You can join the discussion as a live member of the broadcast. It works much like a video conference call on Skype. Jeff and other participants will be able to see you and you will be able to ask your questions directly to Jeff on video.

Only the first 8 people to email aurelien@jalamteas.com will be able to join as an active participants as we have limited "seats" for this option. Reserve your spot quickly!

The JalamTeas Team

Continue Reading ›

JalamTeas welcomes you to join an intimate real-time tea experience with Jeff Fuchs on Monday 25th at 9pm EST (6pm PST) from his home in northwestern Yunnan's 'Shangri-La'.

Jeff will prepare and sip tea with you and take questions about our first tea installment, Meng Song. It is part of our initiative for members and guests to learn about each and every aspect of our tea in an informal session.

Jeff will also introduce next month tea, which will be arriving in March. It is not too late to join the club and receive it.

Joining this live video session will be simple. Sign up to our mailing list below to receive an invitation link, save the date and put a side some tea.

The JalamTeas Team

Continue Reading ›

There is always a kind of inevitability of events in China. With the rush, the masses, the intensity of purpose, things just MOVE!! There is the sense at times that the speed and lack of warning of when something ‘may’ happen can destroy one’s morale and erode the ever-fragile balance. It can be exasperating at times trying to plan but in my case I’ve simply adapted (not always with success). One saving grace is that here in Yunnan where the speed of things is diluted, if one simply rolls with things that come up and say yes more often than no, things will work out. Saying no, after all, often means that one will miss out on some kind of random little gem of unpredictable fun.

And so it goes. Safely perched sipping tea in Menghai planning another trip into the mountains, a pickup of friends arrive with a crunch of gears and the kind of intention in the eyes that I’ve come to love in the locals – a kind of tea-fed frenzy (of the positive kind). It is in the midst of the Dai people’s annual New Years celebrations, otherwise knows as the ‘Water Festival’. The idea is to spray, shoot, and haul as much water on unsuspecting and suspecting victims as possible. Clothes, vehicles, and animals alike get pasted with water in a spirit of wet joy.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

In minutes my vague attempts to say ‘no’ to going out to the Dai villages to celebrate New Years have been wiped out by a good friend who forcibly drags me away from my tea. The heat is intense and the sun sends down a dusty series of shafts.

Watermelon fields with their plastic canopies create a landscape of white bubbles. The villages we head towards are tea villages that I’ve visited before, lining the introductory hills of the Pulang Mountain range – home to some of the Pu’erh world’s classics.

Along with the pleasantly inevitable cups of tea, another fluid will be on offer: firewater of the most brutal intensity. Food, in amounts that embarrass will also be on hand. Even within the bastions of the tea world, there is time for other things (which can – I think – be accompanied by tea).

We arrive in dust and stop in a town I had two years previously enjoyed a similar day of rampant celebrations. Here, during the ‘new year’ there must be time to enjoy talk beyond business, drinks beyond an end game and food beyond limit! But, I wonder how far any conversation here can stray beyond the green leaf.

In these indigenous areas there is that, like in the indigenous culture of N. America’s ‘Six Nations’, a time that is known as ‘Ohen-ton Karihwatehkwen’ (Words Before All Else). Words here mean that there is the time taken to actually speak and listen.

Wicker tables have been set up in the huge home with tiny stools surrounding them. Before anything though, tea is served from nearby Pulang Mountain – an astringent tea that takes over the mouth. Quickly beverages of the ‘firewater’ variety are on offer. I stick with tea knowing two essentials: one, that I will not be permitted to drink nothing, and two, that the only beverage besides the local corn whisky I will be permitted to drink is tea. There is a third reason that lingers but is potent is that the local whisky is at every home that I will visit in the coming day. A day of this sharp white whisky will crush my very core.

I’m also aware from that great teacher – personal experience – that my taste buds will be obliterated for any tea that might be served. Often, at these informal gatherings around this tea-stained region (we are literally at the base of Pulang Mountain) a tea will be served that potentially stirs interest. A blank stare and stunned palate will not be able to savour any of the goodness.

I don’t have to wait long before a dispute arises as to whether a tea we are served is in fact a Banzhang. One thick-set little power-plug of a man, “Lin”, insists that the supplier of the tea was either a liar or that our host might be exaggerating his claim. It is good-natured fun but it belies the intensity of the subject matter.

At another table with the guests in various states of sobriety – and not – another discussion goes on about the high prices of local tea. Still another conversation goes on about a local that everyone knows who has apparently left his wife. Unfortunately for him who left, is that his wife and their tea business has thrived with his departure. This brings chuckles and howls of delight from both the men and women at the table.

Tea’s higher prices this year come from two main sources say all. Rising labour costs and the droughts are notching the prices ever-higher. Tea’s every line, every characteristic, and economic ripple is commented on in details that would have a lay observer either slack-jawed or bored out their mind.

In this region tea is omnipotent. Even on this so-called day of rest. We sip it, discuss it, argue upon it and its effects on the body and mind, but we ultimately adore it.

Food and still more food appears in every colour, from every corner of this bountiful region where everything in the earth seems to prosper.

In the next 7 hours locations change, food is heaped higher on yet more round tables and the talk continues and tea’s continued adoration society continues to fuss about it. Sometime in the early hours, I return to my stale little apartment that is home to flying creatures of all sizes. Walking into the lobby the young tattooed man at the front desk looks up and asks, “Bought any tea”?

Jeff

Continue Reading ›
Menghai Continued

Teashops and tea cups have to at some point make way for the tea forests and fields. Fluid must give way to its ‘source. As much as my entire being loves to be shoved into a tight little shop sipping to the tongue’s contentment, the body needs to move to smell and feel the land that provides the magic fertility that allows the tea plants and trees to grow. 

The cup of tea with its tastes, strengths (or lack thereof) and hues mean very little without a look at where it comes from and who live alongside it. 

Nannuo Mountain and its various villages offer up mountains, tastes, soil types and the full range of making tea. Paths line the mountains, jigging up into ever-higher tea forests, dropping down into valleys and plunging deeper into the mountains. Villages burble along with little interrupting the slow pace and thankfully little interrupting the flow of tea from the mountains into the cups.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer


I am walking on one particular path near Pa San – an area that produces one of the subtlest of all Pu’erhs. Nannuo has always been known for its ‘lighter’, less astringent Pu’erhs, which is partly to do with the soil and partly the process. I’m in good company as my companion is none other than Mr. Gau, a tea maker of stupendous teas from the famed Banzhang area further west. He is here and is curious about the area and its teas as I am, and there is no one the globe that I would rather have on a tea mission that him. Soft spoken (to the point that I must strain and stop all movement to hear him at all), understated, and entirely into the soil, trees and conditions that give teas their flavour, Gau often stops to point, to prod or to simply stare.

He is at peace in the forests and is as content as I am poking about. Villages of Hani (Akha) dot our path as we wander wherever our feet and urges dictate…and that makes for some interesting turns without warning.

The soil in this region is sandy and reddish in tint, and Gau explains how the angled slopes, the bamboo cover and soil type all contribute to ideal conditions. Like the magnanimous tea-god that he is, he is generous with ‘competitors’ and tea regions other than his own. Being of the Hani people himself, he wanders into villages at will, speaking in his soft voice. When discovering where he is from, villagers themselves become silent; his home is the most famous of all Pu’erh towns in Yunnan. Gau pokes about the homes in his ambling gentle way explaining to me what each tea accoutrement is, and why many of the indigenous areas “do better tea”. For Gau, it is simple: an unchanged method of production and doing things by hand keep things predictable and keeps the tea quality high. On one wall hanging casually, two tea baskets with their accompanying wooden harnesses that are fitted around the neck like ancient battle gear.

In one home a withered man sits on a stool sorting through tea leaves with a kind of ritualistic slowness that only the people of the land seem to have. Gau speaks to him in the nasally tones of his language and in a touching show of complicity squats with him on the floor sorting through the dry leaves. 

Later, we wander down from the elevated home back to the first floor. Pushing a door in we enter into a darkened tea sanctum. It is where the tea is ‘made’. Two immaculate pans sit next to one another and a tea roller hovers in a corner of shade. Much here rests silent as the last of the spring harvests has just been taken in.

We are eventually pointed up a path from the home into an area where, according to the tea sorter, the locals have been planting the “children of ancient tea trees” in little rows in a bamboo forest. They are the future of the tea forests and as long as the villagers don’t ruin the surrounding and necessary forests, the mountains and its teas will be safe…and by a nice extension the future will be safe.

We find the ‘babes’ just as we were told we would. To get here we head up and up, sliding in the dry sandy soil and leaves, and even getting down on our hands and knees at times. In an endearing bit of rural habit in China, Gau is wearing some dress shoes, which provide no traction whatsoever. It offers up a bit of contrast as Gau has hands of the countryside: big, callused, things that are competent and wide.

Reaching the little newbie’s which are lined one by one between a thatch of bamboo. The placement isn’t precise or even neat, but rather casual and intuitive. Gau tells me how this is ideal not only for the shading for the little tea plants but also for the way that each tree will have ample space to grow in the future.

In an impulsive moment as Gau squats over a young tea plant, he looks up suddenly and asks if where I’ll source teas from. I tell him that his teas are too pricey – at which point he cuts in with a smile telling me that there isn’t any more of his tea to source anyways – and that I like the Nannuo region as I feel it has always suffered from being an underrated area. Each village produces teas, and within that village, families with their own little tea operations season-after-season and year-after-year hum along, producing their own version of tea. Many towns and ‘mountains’ within the greater Nannuo area produce teas and it remains one of the classic ‘tea mountains’ in Yunnan lore. A tea simply bearing the name “Nannuo Mountain” means nothing. Nannuo Mountain teas should all be traceable to a village or specific region within the greater area and should carry the designation “old tree tea”, or “young tea tree”. Teas without this information aren’t complete or reliable.

Gau is nodding in the mountain heat in apparent agreement. He tells me simply, “Do it”, and with that we go higher. “You don’t need to buy my tea”, he tells me later, and “I’ll share with you”. I’m wishing that this sharing can happen now as it has been two hours since our last ‘infusion’.

Everything about the area that we are in speaks of simplicity. Steps have been carved into the earth to access small terraces of reckless tea growth. Barely visible paths poke through, the green wall of trees heading deeper still into tea forests. There is a hushed quiet that is cut only by cicadas that whine and grind their tunes into the hot air. 

Gau at one point has had enough and turns and tells me that he is “thirsty”. Somewhere below us - though we’re not sure where - a tea awaits.
Continue Reading ›

Heat, Green, Some Characters…and more Green

There are moments when the senses tell the rest of the body that one has arrived; moments when the body knows something before the mind does. Stepping out of a plane’s hatch, hot air and a wall of new smells blast into the nose. I have arrived.

Xishuangbanna and its understated little airport in Jinghong often do this to me, pleasantly but relentlessly assaulting the senses. Jinghong, the capital of the region welcomes me with nothing even close to grandness. The airport is one building of nothing-in-particular and one still walks to the arrival ‘room’ to collect luggage. A different speed, and blasts of colour await everywhere.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Pineapples, magnolia, and exotic flavoured night flowers aside, it is the tea that I have come for.

A day later I am stationed on a little green chair surrounded by tea in Menghai, a quick hour from the capital. A tight, two-floor affair, the teahouse I sit in is one of the many I will visit. A kitchen upstairs (and the requisite but suspect toilet) ensure that my tea sessions are uninterrupted by the need to depart the building. Only a little mattress is missing to complete the autonomy. My hostess ‘Dan’ has got tea flowing in a small flood of stimulant happiness. A fire-plug of energy, she is of the Pulang, or Pu people, one of the planet’s original tea cultivating peoples.

Teas from southern Yunnan are pricey this year but the quality is unquestioned. Successive drought years have depleted amounts of tea but in that wonderful ironic way, the tea that ‘is’ available is generally excellent. What it means for tea sellers is that, the ones who sell quality teas will do fine; the ones that try and dupe or have a reputation that is less than scrupulous will struggle. What it means for my own tea sourcing and slurping mission is that I will widen my area of interest to smaller and lesser-known areas that have never really been on the tea map.

This little bit of ‘natural selection’ bodes well. I will only visit the areas I trust and a couple of additional ‘new’ areas that I’ve not been. It never bodes well to only stick to a few places and teas, and there are always those little areas with great tea that exist, without a known ‘name’. I do however try to ensure that the actual tea makers I source from are limited to a select few. The epic Banzhang teas have reached over a thousand dollars a kilogram depending on their maker and origins.

Additionally, in the intense world of tea in these tea-crazed regions, many buyers from Guangdong are now moving here and setting up their own production facilities to ensure that they can absolutely control the quality (and price). It will make for some interesting dynamics in the coming years. Where previously these powerful tea mavens would simply buy up entire harvests, they now transport the leaves directly to their factories nearby and control the entire process from there on in. They essentially headhunt the best tea makers in their relentless efforts to secure quality and consistency.

All of the characters that I rejoice in seeing on my visits down here are in fine form…some with new weight on their faces, others with new wealth, but all with that same delighted buzz that I’ve always associated with tea-people. One old friend’s father and mother show up in a casual mess of a tuk-tuk. In their mid-seventies, ‘mother’ is short squat and hosts a formidable appetite, while her husband is a spry man with freshly dyed hair and a smile that seems permanently fixed on his face.

The tea action begins immediately with updates, gossip, and the latest regrets. Thankfully, though, there is tea to accompany all of the words and smiles.

Things in this area happen without warning in a kind of tea-fed fury, and this tradition continues when, on the first morning I am whisked off to a little tea factory that is doing great things in smaller quantities.

Steamed tea wafts blow the sinuses open as I peer into a spotless ‘production’ room. Six workers sift, weigh, steam, wrap, and press the tea cakes. Simple and precise, little factory is exactly what interests me as they alone can manage to maintain an attention to detail.

Minutes after an impromptu tour, we are sitting in the little ‘office’ hurling back cups of a local Pulang Shan tea…and this is as good a place as any to finish a tea blog posting.


Jeff in Yunnan

Continue Reading ›
One of the great joys is to source tea - pure and simple.
This ‘source-time’ now approaches for me to organize and ‘find’ the next offerings for JalamTeas; and within there is the knowledge that I not only am about to imbibe outrageous amount of tea that delight (or depress), but to source teas that I think would make a nice follow up to our successful Bada Mountain Pu’er.

A brief one-hour flight from our perch at 3200 metres in Yunnan’s northwest, where my home sits in a cold vacuum of unrelenting winter, to Kunming. A three-hour wait and then another hour-long flight to Xishuangbanna’s humidity in the deep-south, and a 50 minute bus ride west follows that, and into one of the ancient basins of tea, Menghai.

While the harvest times begin as early as late February, I have long preferred going down a bit later to avoid the inevitable hype, and to see what has sold, what hasn’t, and what little gems might be lurking unloved at the rear of a forgotten tea shop, or in a villager’s home. It is in such places that ‘new’ classics or simply palate pleasers are found.

There are two teas I know are ready for the coming months’ JalamTeas’ menu; teas that I have tasted in the past month that were sent up from the tea regions to sample. They are teas that are different enough, and of a good enough quality to begood follow-ups to our current Bada Mountain Pu’er. The remaining teas are those special wonders, ‘the yet-to-be’s’. They are the yet to be sampled stunners that stopthe mouth and breath dead with their qualities…and always these teas lie in wait; unpredictable until they send their message through a cup into the mouth. After that it is a case of sorting out that ‘necessary’ of any transaction, the money.

With this trip not only will teas be sampled, but one of the other underrated aspects of sourcing will be indulged: exploring the isolated villages in the mountains, the meals taken on the floor, and the odd little venerable piece of local lore or tea-philosophy, will be taken in as well. Again and again it is the people aspect that I appreciate (and of course their generous servings of the tea) and it is one ofthe great earthly classrooms: to be amidst, to listen and ultimately to take in the knowledge.

Because of our obsession with quality – rather than quantity – we can stock up on small amounts of teas that suit the mood, or that I think might be treats for our friends.

Notes, (and sips) from the field to come.

Jeff in Yunnan
Continue Reading ›
13 days until Christmas! We'll help you get ready with free shipping on your order.


Today* is your last day to order to the USA with free shipping and to get it before Christmas Day.

For orders to Canada, you have until Wednesday**.


Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. You can find live help in the bottom corners.



Note: You'll still be able to order in time for Christmas after these dates but you'll require a premium courier shipping option.


* December 12th
** December 14th
Continue Reading ›