In the Spring of 2017, I met this eccentric chap.
A couple of days ago, a fellow tea acquaintance asked me for some advice on puerh. Naturally, I provided it, based upon my own subjective experience. But I also had to preface something. I was not the most . . . uh . . . mature, sophisticated, or “learned” person on the subject of puerh.
Spoiler alert: there’s tea growing in Peru.
I know, that’s not a surprise to anyone. After all, the country is considered the 28th largest tea producer in the world. However, until last year, it was completely new news to me. But let’s begin with where I began in my pursuit for Peruvian tea.
Editor’s Note: This is merely a thought exercise by the author. The opinions reflected in the below narrative do not reflect the opinions of the teaware on staff . . . or this editor, for that matter.
Seriously, I just work here, guys.
A thought occurred to me over the years. No one has come to a clear consensus as to what the proper tea categories are. The general consensus is that there are six: Heicha (Dark Tea), Hong Cha (Black/Red Tea), Wulong, Green Tea, Yellow Tea, and White Tea. However, some say that yellow tea isn’t its own category (even though it clearly is). Others champion the stance that dark tea shouldn’t include sheng (raw) puerh. Others still believe puerh should be its own category. Hell, even some international trade laws only recognize two tea categories.
So, this got me thinking . . .
If I were the end-all/say-all authority on tea lexicography, how would I divvy up the different tea types? What would my breakdown look like? Well, in order to answer that question, I must breakdown (and in some cases, outright destroy) existing trends. This might over-complicate the issue, and over-simplify other things. But this is my write-up . . . and I’ll do what I want. So, here we go:
To date, I’ve had three or four experiences with Georgian teas. As in, teas grown in the country of Georgia; not the U.S. state. However, there was one type of tasting session I had yet to do. That being, to try all the wares from one farmer/producer, in order to enjoy their individual quirks and artistry.
And then I read THIS.
You should read it, too. I’ll wait.
The folks behind Tea in the City (a UK-based online tea operation) made a sourcing trip across the entire expanse of the Caucasus range—from Azerbaijan, to Sochi, Russia, and then on down to Georgia. They visited many large producers in the country, and on their final leg of the journey, they ended up in the region of Guria. Specifically, they found a farmer in the small town of Ozurgeti, just outside of the larger resort town of Batumi.
The farmer in question? A guy named Davit.
The idea of an underground tea scene always intrigued me. Not sure when the notion entered the deep recesses of my tea-soaked brain; maybe it was Robert “The Devotea” Godden’s ebook Tea Story, or maybe someone mentioned the idea of it in passing? Whichever, whatever. Point being, the notion always fascinated me. I even envisioned an underground network of “steepeasies” in a story I had . . . yet to write.
Little did I know, though, there actually was such an underground tea network threading itself together. From Austin, Texas, to San Francisco, California, and further northward to Portland, Oregon; people communed over tea just under the radar. I had some affiliations with various members of this fledgling network, and in my various tea blog dealings, one name kept coming up.
This all started because of a tea cake.
No, not that kind of tea cake. An actual cake. The kind you eat; not drink.
Instagram has been a useful tool for several reasons. One, it put me in contact with new tea people across the world—some personal, others professional. But it has also helped me touch bases with old friends from the hither and yon. Case in point:
Meet Kristin Barger.
One of the biggest challenges to tea blogger productivity . . . is the Internet.
Yes, all of it.
While social media is the biggest time-suck—keeping me away from what little writery discipline I possess—YouTube is a close second. My addiction to that streaming site is as old as my tea habit. However, there weren’t many teacentric vloggers (video bloggers) on it.
Sure, some companies posted tutorials, but there were few (if any) tea nuts who posted their own appreciative content. For the longest time, that role was filled by Natasha “The [Martial] Artist Formerly Known as Snooty Tea Person” Nesic. (I’ve . . . written of my respect for her output at length.) Alas, she moved on to bigger and better things, and there was nothing to fill the Snooty-sized hole in the heart of YouTube.
Well, apparently, I hadn’t looked hard enough. Thanks to tea friend, Nicole “Tea For Me Please” Martin, my eyes were recently opened to a tea vlogger world I never knew existed. And the most surprising thing? They’re all . . . freakin’ adorable!
Four years ago, I “discovered” the Harendong estate.
I put “discovered” in air-quotes because . . . it’d been there for eight years by the time I ran across it. Perhaps I should say, it was new to me. They had a booth at the 2013 World Tea Expo—under their Banten Tea brand—and the thing that excited me about them was where they were from.
Let’s talk about tea, oversharing, and consent.
Of course, in order to do this I will have to—y’know—overshare. So, continuing past this point, or clicking the “Read More” button, will be considered a form of consent. Understood? Are we all on the same page? Great, let’s begin.
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