It takes dedication to bring you that cuppa tea. This isn’t about tea vendors like me, though. It’s about people who manage tea gardens, work in those tea gardens, process the teas, people who hunt out tea trees in the mountains growing wild and/or untended, those who engage in their annual trek to special tea areas and remote villages to seek out the freshest and best. That’s dedication. That’s what brings those special teas to your cup. We’re just helping ease the way a bit for getting those teas to market.
Dedicated Tea Growers
Tea growers, that is, those who cultivate tea plants (planting, weeding, fertilizing, watering, pest control, trimming, harvesting, pruning, replanting), deal with a lot of issues (common to farmers around the world). Good weather can mean a bumper crop and lower prices like it did for these folks in Kenya. Bad weather, including a lack of rain or the rains starting too late, can shrink harvest, result in poorer quality tea leaves, and reduce prices. One of those lose-lose situations. Keeping those tea plants healthy, free of pests and weeds, and properly trimmed and pruned takes a lot of skill and knowledge. Machine harvesting means – tada! – machinery! It has to be run properly and maintained. Hand harvesting means lots of skilled people (most seem to be women) to go through the tea fields and pick the right leaves (depending on the tea being made, there are very specific plucking standards such as getting just that tipmost leaf-bud set or just the bud that is not yet opened). Other challenges come from politics (worldwide), changing tea taste preferences in major tea markets, prominence of cheaper teas in the market through various marketing techniques, and much more.
Dealing with all of the above takes dedication. You deal with the weather, decide to stay with tea or move to some other crop (not an easy decision since tea plants take a few years to start yielding a marketable crop), find a way to finance the machinery to harvest and process the tea and train people to operate them, and so on. It takes a certain type of person – one who knows this isn’t a hobby, a cake walk, or a passing fancy. It’s a commitment of time and resources. Dedication.
Dedicated Tea Trekkers
Our applause goes out to dedicated tea trekkers. They bring to market teas that would otherwise not even exist. Some travel to remote villages to sample their processed teas and select the best. Others harvest the leaves themselves and haul them to a tea factory for processing. There are places especially in China (where tea has been consumed for thousands of years) where old tea trees (the oldest one dated back to 1,700 years as of 2012 but has since died) still grow and their leaves are still harvested by the brave souls who dare to climb them (not to mention hiking to where they are located, since there are usually no roads). Hai Lang Hao is a tea processor who makes his annual trek to the Zheng Si Long tea factory to process his leaves into some of the most sought after pu-erh cakes (see our article here). Jennifer Jiang and her husband are others who think it’s very worthwhile to make their annual trek to those remote villages to get the best to bring to market. Dedication.
Putting on a Good Show
There are others who claim they are seeking out the best wild or rare teas when they are only putting out misinformation that falsely vilifies legitimate tea growers dedicated to their craft. Putting on a good show fools consumers and lessens business for the real dedicatees. But it happens in every profession. Caveat emptor (buyer beware). Many of us, though, truly seek out the best to be sure you get the best. Dedication!