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Asia is far away. Everyone knows that. But you really feel it 3 hours into a 12 hour flight…5 hours in…6 hours in (hey, we’re halfway there!). 10 hours in I’m wondering why I’m not in the coffee business—I could have flown to Guatemala and back by now. The only problem is that I don’t drink coffee. I drink tea. It’s why I started Hugo Tea Co. in 2011—with a commitment to source direct from farmers in the far-flung corners of Asia (something that’s surprisingly rare in the tea industry, especially among boutique suppliers like Hugo Tea Co.).

The trip is part business and part vacation (if I’m honest about it). We are on the farm every harvest season, but the flight doesn’t get any easier.

After 13 hours of nonstop travel, I’m standing blurry-eyed in front of the Chinese Entry Official. STAMP STAMP. “Welcome back to China, Mr. Tyler.” 

Shanghai and the great Eastern mega cities of China are a study in contrasts. It’s a juxtaposition of old and new—poor and rich. For the nerdiest readers, I’d describe it as Firefly-esq. Goats and Lamborghinis. IPhones and bare feet. But let’s not dilly dally here. They don’t grow tea in Shanghai—and even if they did you wouldn’t want to drink it. Nope—China has a pollution problem. We’ll be heading West to the unspoiled regions of Guangxi and Yunnan to visit our partner farms with whom we’ve developed our flagship green and black teas.

But first a detour. I need to catch a train to meet a friend.

--Shanghai Hongqiao Rail Station, April 14th 2016