At the end of our trip to China this year we took (quite a major) detour to the Mountain top Chang Shan Ding garden - Tian Tai town in the East of Zhejiang Province, in search of organic Long Jing tea.
Having long been a devoted Japanese green tea drinker I was yet to be excited by the profile of Long Jing but this trip was to change that. On arrival at Chang Shan Ding we were enthusiastically met by Mr Wenxiao Li, incredibly energetic and spritely at 65 - a great advert for a life in tea. This blog is his story [told to us by Mr Shen who kindly posed the questions and translated Mr Li's words and also with some of our own experiences added in] - offering a fascinating insight into the various paths and opportunities available in a career in tea in a country such as China. For us, as tea merchants, we are left feeling humbled that a man of such experience would dedicate so much time to take us around his garden and share tea with us. This kindness and generosity is ever present around the tea world and I hope it something you also feel when you visit our Tea Houses. I cannot wait to see Mr Li again on the trip in 2017 and learn more about his fascinating life.
In their own words : Mr WenXiao Li
Born in 1951 (& with over 49 years in the tea industry) Mr Wenxiao Li is the president of Lin’an tea industry association and a member of international Organic Agriculture Union. In 1968 he started out in the industry as the research team leader in a specialized tea group in the Fanlong production brigade, Qingyun commune of Lin’an country and to this day he inspires enthusiasm and strives for development; holding roles both as a grower and an executive in the organic tea industry
Below is an outline of Mr Li's career showing the immense contribution that he has already made and continues to make to the organic tea movement in Zhejiang province. As well as currently overseeing the Chang Shan Ding garden the company he manages is the leading enterprise specialized in researching and producing organic tea in China and has won gold awards for their teas several times, both at home and abroad.
Comins Insight : "For a man with such great experience in the tea Industry Mr Li was extremely humble and patient with our endless questions. He himself showed us around the gardens - keeping a connection with the tea itself was clearly important to him - this is something we often talk about at Comins and a desire to stay connected with the tea itself on a daily basis is why we have our Tea Houses. It was beautifully clear when we arrived at Chang Shan Ding - the manicured tea bushes quiet and peaceful as is often the case at tea gardens. As we travelled up the mountain we saw pickers starting to emerge for the first work of the morning.
We travelled past the perfectly manicured tea bushes to an area of land beyond. Mr Li - full of energy - led the way. Here we saw workers who had travelled from Anhui to pick the tea amoung a group of 'wild' uncultivated tea bushes. Left to their own devices these bushes had grown slowly & organically producing a tea that we would later experience as a light sweet infusion & refreshing cup. As we stopped to talk to the pickers the cloud started to descend on the tea garden - Mr Li smiled and told us "where there is cloud there is great tea" We chose to walk down the mountains taking the cobbled path among the tea bushes. It felt as if the cloud was chasing us as the green valley slowly became clothed in white. We reached Mr Li's office just in time to enjoy the view while sampling the tea but in no time we were swallowed up in the mist. It bought home the reality of working on remote gardens like this. On a sunny day the life of a tea picker or garden manager looks idyllic but this is a job and an industry at the mercy of the elements and one that requires skill and commitment. Changing weather conditions affect the dates for tea picking and this in turn has a knock on effect on staffing and the way that the tea is processed. All of these factors and many more must be considered and acted upon by a skilled tea professionals such as Mr Li.
In sharing his story with us Mr Li wanted to express his feelings of great gratitude to veteran colleagues, former tea officials, experienced tea experts, old tea friends, and clients.colleagues and mentors who have shaped his life in tea - saying ”remember the source when drinking water”. In particular he expresses gratitude to Mr Zong Mao Chen for guiding him to the ambit of tea, and feels indebted to Mr Zhengfang Li for leading him to the organic tea industry, the two masters are like great beacons on the road to his career in the tea culture. Many of us most probably have similar figures in our lives who have helped determine and shape our chosen paths.
As we look today at the tea industry in Zhejiang and more widely in China Mr Li shared his belief that a vigorous spring time of the organic tea industry is coming in China, More energetic than ever he is devising strategies and drawing up a long-term development blueprint for the future. We have no doubt there are more exciting developments [which of course means great tea] to come and look forward to returning to see Mr Shen & Mr Li in 2017.
Try Long Jing from Mr Li's Chang Shan Ding garden for yourself at our Tea Houses or buy online & see if you agree with Mr Li when he says 'where there is cloud there is great tea' #teatales#teatravels #teamerchants