Travel Journal #4: The Southern Coast

May 22, 2014

This continues a series of travel journals documenting Hugo Tea's adventures in China. The previous entry can be found here.

The Southern Coast

After Yunnan, I traveled 1700 miles east to Xiamen, a clean and modern island city on China’s southern coast. Here I met my friend Jingyong, a brilliant tea scientist and businessman who was traveling with his mother and daughter—and just happened to be in Xiamen when I arrived. It also happened to be my birthday. Jingyong insisted on a cake—and what better than a cake made from green tea?

Green Tea Birthday Cake courtesy of Jingyong, one of Hugo Tea's green tea suppliers and personal friend. 

In Xiamen we caught up, drank a lot of tea, and met with a potential future supplier farm before moving on. Over the next several days we traveled northeast, up the coast of the famed Fujian Province. We saw an endless number of beautiful tea farms—most of them devoted exclusively to white tea. Hugo Tea’s White-Cloud, which is a Bai Mudan style of white tea, comes from farmers in Fujian.

#Nofilter. Certified Organic White Tea farm of Fujian

White tea is the least processed of all tea types. While green teas and black teas undergo (normally) some sort of “shaping” to make the leaves rolled or twisted, white tea is normally left in-tact. This is why you see such large and fluffy leaves when you open a can of Hugo Tea White-Cloud

The next (and final) stop of this tea journey took us to a remote village in Zhejiang Province. It is here that my friend, Jingyong, manages a medium-sized organic tea company nestled in a narrow, pristine valley. Hugo Tea's recently-released Match Lattes use a tea base from Jingyong's farm. 

Shaded plants, almost ready for plucking. 

Jingyong's farm utilizes a Japanese production method of shading the tea leaves prior to plucking. A few weeks before the leaves are plucked, temporary shade lattices are constructed using bamboo and a synthetic woven material. The shade stresses the plants, causing the plants to pump additional nutrients into the young buds and tips. The shading makes the final product much more green because the plant increases chlorophyll production to offset the decreased light. And, as third-grade science taught us, chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color. More chlorophyll = greener leaves.

Jingyong and I spent the entire day in the field. Looking at plants, chatting with workers...eating some wild-grown berries which had sprouted up in a fence row. I still don't know the proper name of the berries, but they were quite tasty. 

My friend talked at length about the "balance" (平衡) of things in the tea garden. The berries were a suitable metaphor. He explained that we wouldn't be able to eat the berries if they used pesticides and herbicides on their fields, because the berry bush would be dead. He pointed out the bugs that seemed to crawl and fly everywhere, and the birds that ate them. And the snakes that eat the birds. It was all in "balance" he called it. It is a very Asian notion that perhaps can be over-romanticized in by us in the U.S. But it has very practical implications in this case. When the fields are in balance, Jingyong explained, there's hardly a purpose to using chemicals at all. 

Organic tea farms are more likely to have a bit of die-off with tea bushes. It's part of the balance, Jingyong explained. (also this area experienced an extremely hot summer the year before). 

More than ever, Hugo Tea remains committed to sourcing Certified Organic tea from the best gardens in Asia and around the world. Look for new products in the future, and improvements to older products. To learn more about tea explore www.hugotea.com/learn. And as always, we are always open to chatting with you directly about tea--keep in touch with us through the contact form on hugotea.com, or connect with us on social media:

facebook.com/hugotea

twitter.com/hugoteaco

instagram.com/hugoteaco

Cheers, 

Tyler Beckett

Shanghai, China