A new micro-lot from Yiwu and new developments in the spring harvest.

Newsletter Archive Apr. 8, 2022

Three people examining a tea bush taller than they are on a dirt path in the forest.
Tea maker He Tianneng showing Zhuping and Austin the old puer tea trees in the Yiwu forest.

As spring roars into full effect, we’re bringing out a few hidden treasures. Now available in our online store and teahouse is a limited delivery of Yiwushan (Yiwu Mountain) 2020, a light-bodied sheng puer with layers of spring meadow character. We’re also highlighting two other Yunnan-grown micro-lots: Dark, old, and beautiful Laowushan 2009 sheng puer and the violet aromatics of Zijuan Hong (Purple Leaf Yunnan Black).

Yunnan’s tea, especially its sheng puer, has a reputation for brews of high astringency, brightness and bitterness. We love those qualities, but these three are decidedly different. Light-bodied, smooth, but no less complex. That seems about right for this tense spring.

Close view of a sprig of bright green tea pinched between a person’s fingers.
A crisp sprig of fresh Yiwu puer displaying the traditional one bud and two leaf plucking standard.

A tense spring for tea

This past week brought a celebration of the Qing Ming festival in China. For many in China, Qing Ming was a time to visit the family graves and give them a reverent cleaning. It’s also a pivot in China’s spring tea harvest, a time when the very earliest teas have just finished production, and the most explosive season of growth lies just ahead. Unfortunately, this milestone comes amidst turmoil, both within China and without. For our part in the tea trade, Covid-19 restrictions in China’s eastern cities and ports pose supply chain challenges as significant as we’ve seen since the spring of 2020.

We’ve searched for a feasible route of export for the last month. Even in places where lockdowns are lifted, high-congestion remains and exports move at a slow grind.

We have, however, found a way through. We’ve bundled together a shipment of many early spring stalwarts like Shifeng Longjing, Junshan Yinzhen, and Mengding Sweet Dew, as well as a few surprises that are set to ship very soon. Under normal circumstances, we like to bring these teas to you by the second week of April. But the situation this year is likely to delay them towards the end of the month.

Two ladies in hats and smocks standing among the tea bushes, holding up the fresh sprigs of green tea they’ve just plucked.
Many tea gardens rely on travelers from Anhui for the spring harvest, like these Anji Baicha pluckers in Zhejiang.

Current export issues are only half of the story. Lockdowns in China also pose a threat to the spring season yet to come. Tea producers who rely on seasonal labor from other provinces are now especially unnerved to see lockdowns in Shanghai spreading to other regions. Reports from Anji county (the origin of beloved Anji Baicha) is that some growers are releasing their workers early, avoiding the potentially devastating situation where they are housing and paying a work force that can neither work nor return home. This shortens the supply of later spring leaves, a shift that could complicate this year’s market for traditionally more affordable teas, like Yu Qian Anji Baicha.

Of course, every tea season is always dynamic. Each brings its own challenges and own successes. This is our 20th spring in the tea trade and we’ve never stopped feeling privileged to be able to be a part of this industry and ride the challenges of each season like a wave. Thank you for being a part of this with us.