Yunnan Sourcing Blog

Explorations in Tea

Sorry to make everyone wait. It’s all because I agonized for so long about which ones to choose. I knew I wanted to head in a new direction, more artistic and less branded. Everyone that buys these teas know where they come from and so we try to match the lovely teas this year with some nice artwork that will (hopefully) create a synergistic effect.

This year’s winners are all new people. Previous winners also submitted some very good entries, and through no fault of their own I didn’t choose those designs. I just want you all to know that my choice is based largely on the designs we needed.  Sara’s and Igor’s will be used for our raw cakes for Spring and Autumn, whereas Luca’s and Martin’s designs will be used for some ripe cakes we are planning! I apologize in advance if my not choosing your entry upsets you. You are all winners and everyone did a great job! I am incredibly fortunate to have so many wonderful artists and designers submitting their entries this year.  It’s an honor and I thank every one of you!

 

 

This year’s winners were:

1st. Sara Pellerin (Canada)
2nd. Igor Kozhanov (Russia)
3rd. Luca Fossati (Italy)
4th. Martin Ostrolucký (???)

 

Sara Pellerin’s winning design:

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Sara Pellerin’s other designs:

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Igor Kozhanov’s winning design:

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Igor Kozhanov’s other designs:

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Luca Fossati’s winning design:

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Martin Ostrolucký’s winning design:

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Honorable Mentions:

 

Alexander Agafonov’s designs:

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Ronald Visser’s designs:

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Holly Reynolds:

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Tomas Klouda:

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Welcome everyone to 2014, the Year of the Horse! Last year was a great success with many excellent contributions!

To sweeten the pot a bit we will be offering a 1st, 2nd and 3rd and 4th price for the best designs!

1st prize: $250.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!
2nd prize: $150.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!
3rd prize: $100.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!
4th prize: $50.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!

Please submit all designs no later than March 5th. We will announce winners on this blog, and via twitter, vk and facebook (of course we will email winners directly) no later than March 5th.

1. Designs should be done in either Photoshop or Illustrator 300 DPI. Other formats may be OK, but would prefer these two formats. Also provide us with a JPEG or PDF format version of the design so we can easily compare and preview.
2. Any fonts used should be included with your submission.
3. Design must prominently feature these characters “云之源”
4. Bonus for hand drawn lettering or illustrations.
5. Bonus for inclusion of a horse (character or image) in the design
6. Keep design to three colors (or black and white). No mixing / gradient of colors as this won’t print well on the hand-made white paper we plan to use.

We reserve the right to:

1. Change the fonts or design features of your design before we print the wrapper.
2. Add additional information, such as our logo, hand stamp seal, net weight of the tea cake, QS information (back) and QR code (back) to the wrapper, or anything else
3. Retain right to use as we see fit, now and into the future!
4. If you like we can feature your name and “Designed by” on the back of wrapper when we print it.

Thanks and good luck, if you have any questions email me at scott at yunnansourcing d0t com!

- Scott

I recently sat down for an interview with Jihai (季海), the owner and creator of the Hai Lang Hao brand of Pu-erh tea. He enthusiastically shared his views on tea drinking and the tea business in general:

Interviewer: When did you first get interested in tea and why?

Jihai: I first got involved with tea in 1996, but at that time it was mainly a business interest rather than a personal interest. I had always enjoyed tea while growing up, and because my parents worked in agriculture, I developed a love for naturally grown produce. However, I hadn’t gained a true appreciation for tea, especially Pu-erh tea, until 1999. Up until 1999, I had primarily dealt with and drank Yunnan green teas, but the International Horticultural Expo held in Kunming in 1999 brought in numerous visitors from all around China, and from all over the world, who expressed a very high interest in Yunnan Pu-erh tea. This in turn caused many of us in Kunming to become interested in Pu-erh as well. Before the Expo, people in Kunming knew very little about Pu-erh tea, but the Expo sparked a renewed interest among the people of Kunming.

HLH1

Interviewer: What is your personal favorite tea and why?

Jihai: My favorite tea is raw Pu-erh tea, among which Yi Wu and Bu Lang mountain teas are my favorite, and also ancient arbor gu shu (古树) teas like Lao Ban Zhang. I believe these best represent Yunnan Pu-erh tea because they are grown in extremely good environments with no pollution, and they also have a brilliant mouth-feel (kou gan 口感). Drinking these teas can help you understand more about the essence of nature. Really, the most important thing about drinking any tea is the pleasant feeling you experience in your mouth and throughout your body. The appearance of the tea is not so important, rather what is important is the taste and the fine qualities and characteristics of the tea. In the Chinese language we have the saying ren bu ke mao xiang (人不可貌相) which means not to judge people by their appearances, and this same line of thinking should be applied to tea as well.

Interviewer: You originally sold tea under the brand Ming Xiang Ya Yuan and then later changed it to Hai Lang Hao. What is the reason for this change?

Jihai: In 2003 I tried to officially register the label Ming Xiang Ya Yuan, which rolls off the tongue and invokes an image of a fragrant tea garden. However, this name had already been registered by someone else in a small teahouse in Beijing. I then tried lengthening the name to Ming Xiang Ya Yuan, but this too was already registered elsewhere. So I tried the name Hai Lang Hao, which is my internet name, but this turned out to be registered by another company as well, even though I still use this name regularly. Actually, the official brand-name that my tea is currently registered under is Xiang Sui (香随) which I believe fits the characteristics of my tea the best. It means that the fragrance, taste and feeling given off by the tea tends to linger and follow you everywhere you go.

Interviewer: What makes your brand of tea unique from other tea brands?

Jihai: These teas are like my children so I have a lot of affection for each and every one of them. They will always be with me and will follow me just as the name of my label suggests. Every tea brand is unique. It is like artwork and the creators of every brand are able to express themselves through their tea. A person who drinks my tea and who is able to understand my tea will also be able to understand me. They will be able to understand my hope for the future of tea and my true appreciation for tea. Everyone has their own personal beliefs and interpretations of everything, and feelings about tea are the same: there are no right or wrong answers, only personal tastes.

HLH2

Interviewer: What do you think the future of tea-drinking is in China?

Jihai: It will be similar to that of jade, calligraphy, and other Chinese cultural traditions. It will become increasingly important to the Chinese people as more come to appreciate Pu’er tea and Pu’er tea culture. Because it is healthy and natural, more people will be drawn to its qualities. We will do everything we can to promote this understanding of tea.

Interviewer: What tips can you give to tea drinkers to enjoy their tea to the fullest?

Jihai: The only true purpose of drinking tea is to pay attention to and enjoy its innate characteristics rather than its outward appearance. The simpler the experience is, the better. There is no need to place too much emphasis on variations in the weather, the water, ceremonies, etc. All that is needed are the leaves, a cup, and a pot of water. Tea is very simple actually, but many people try to make it overly complicated, such as by caring too much about the age of the tree and other factors like that. The most important thing is the feeling that the tea gives you rather than its origins, who made it, etc.

Interviewer: What do you think are the biggest benefits of drinking tea?

Jihai: Tea has the ability to cleanse your mind and your inner being and to allow the drinker to return to the essence of nature (回归自然). This is the biggest benefit. My dream is to not only figuratively, but to literally return to nature one day by becoming a simple tea farmer. As for now, I am fully focused on my business, and it is necessary to completely and correctly finish this first task before moving on to the next task.

Interviewer: How do you decide which loose teas to press into your cakes?

Jihai: This is a bit difficult to express in words. My only real requirement is that it satisfies me, like I said earlier, by providing a pleasant feeling in the mouth and throughout the body. My goal is to simply produce good tea which is satisfying to the customer, so If I am able to do this successfully, that is enough for me.

HLH3

Interviewer: Any words of advice to a customer who would like to try your tea for the first time and who is unsure of which tea to start with?

Jihai: If a customer is fairly new to raw Pu-erh, then I would recommend that they start by drinking plantation tea for awhile (tai di cha 台地茶), then move on to drinking Pu-erh tea blends (pin pei cha 拼配茶), before finally progressing to ancient arbor gu shu Pu-erh teas (gu she cha 古树茶). There needs to be a gradual progression of understanding, like going from elementary to high school. Only by building this foundation will one be able to truly understand and appreciate ancient arbor gu shu teas such as Yi Wu teas. Those who dive straight into drinking ancient arbor gu shu teas, without first getting aquatinted with a wide range of other teas, will fail to fully appreciate why gu shu teas are so good. This is all very similar to wine tasting.

Interviewer: Thank you very much for your time and for your wonderful tea!

Interview conducted and translated from Chinese into English by Steve of Yunnan Sourcing

First of all, thanks to everybody who contributed a design! We had more 30 entries from 20+ contributors! I was supposed to let everyone know on March 15th, but I agonized for days about choosing the winning designs. This year’s designs were overall excellent and deserve praise!

No huge upsets this year though! The top three places were filled by the same people… their designs were awesome last year and this year was no surprise that the same 3 folks came up with great designs!

1st Place – Ronald Visser of the Netherlands!

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2nd Place – Alexander Agafonov of Russia

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3rd Place – (two winners) Davide Lussetti of Switzerland

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and Ferry Yanchuk of Ukraine!

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Honorable Mentions:

Cloud Mountain
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Emmet Guzman
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Brian Howeth
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Ronald Visser (3 other designs)
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Ferry Yanchuk (2 other designs)
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Ana Belen (Communitea)
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Connor Walsh
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Welcome everyone to 2013, the Year of the Snake! Last year was a great success with many excellent contributions!

To sweeten the pot a bit we will be offering a 1st, 2nd and 3rd and 4th price for the best designs!

1st prize: $250.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!
2nd prize: $150.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!
3rd prize: $100.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!
4th prize: $50.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!

Please submit all designs no later than March 1st. We will announce winners on this blog, and via twitter and facebook (of course we will email winners directly) no later than March 15th.

1. Designs should be done in either Photoshop or Illustrator 300 DPI. Other formats may be OK, but would prefer these two formats. Also provide us with a JPEG or PDF format version of the design so we can easily compare and preview.
2. Any fonts used should be included with your submission.
3. Design must prominently feature these characters “云之源”
4. Bonus for hand drawn lettering or illustrations.
5. Bonus for inclusion of a snake (character or image) in the design
6. Keep design to three colors (or black and white). No mixing / gradient of colors as this won’t print well on the hand-made white paper we plan to use.

We reserve the right to:

1. Change the fonts or design features of your design before we print the wrapper.
2. Add additional information, such as our logo, hand stamp seal, net weight of the tea cake, QS information (back) and QR code (back) to the wrapper, or anything else
3. Retain right to use as we see fit, now and into the future!
4. If you like we can feature your name and “Designed by” on the back of wrapper when we print it.

Thanks and good luck, if you have any questions email me at scott at yunnansourcing d0t com!

- Scott

Sorry for the delay in making the announcements!

1st place – Alexander Agafonov (Russia) – our 400 gram raw cakes!

2nd place – Ronald Visser  (Netherlands) – Our Yi

Wu Mountain series!

3rd place tie:

Cloud Mountain Tea House of

Canada B.C.

and

Davide Lussetti (Switzerland)

Welcome everyone to 2012, the Year of the Dragon. This year we really want to involve our customers in the design of our 2012 tea cake wrapper that we will use for our Yun Zhi Yuan (Yunnan Sourcing) tea cakes!

To sweeten the pot a bit we will be offering a 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize for the best designs!

1st prize: $250.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com website!
2nd prize: $150.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com website!
3rd prize: $100.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com website!

Please submit all designs no later than March 1st. We will announce winners on this blog, and via twitter and facebook (of course we will email winners directly) no later than March 10th.

1. Designs should be done in either Photoshop or Illustrator 300 DPI. Other formats may be OK, but would prefer these two formats. Also provide us with a JPEG or PDF format version of the design so we can easily compare and preview.
2. Any fonts used should be included with your submission.
3. Design must prominently feature these characters “云之源”
4. Bonus for hand drawn lettering or illustrations.
5. Bonus for inclusion of a dragon (character or image) in the design
6. Keep design to three colors (or black and white). No mixing / gradient of colors as this won’t print well on the hand-made white paper we plan to use.

We reserve the right to:

1. Change the fonts or design features of your design before we print the wrapper.
2. Add additional information, such as our logo, hand stamp seal, net weight of the tea cake, QS information (back) and QR code (back) to the wrapper, or anything else
3. Retain right to use as we see fit now and into the future!

Thanks and good luck, if you have any questions email me at scott at yunnansourcing d0t com!

- Scott

Part of our Q and A series.

Question:

Where does the smokiness in Pu-erh come from?

Answer:

1. The smokiness can be the result of a smoky environment during processing (such as kill green process where wood fired woks are used to fry the tea).

2. Sometimes the weather turns cloudy or rainy and the sun drying process is interrupted and the tea needs to be dried in a basket over a fire.

3. The final reason could be that the after the tea is processed into mao cha it might be stored in the home where wood fires are used for cooking and processing of other products. To keep the mao cha from molding in a hot and humid climate it is usually kept on the second floor where it will absorb smoke and cooking odors. The tea could be stored like this for a few months to a few years until a buyer is found.

It’s a new year and Da Yi has re-vamped the anti-counterfeit sticker that it puts on the back of tea cakes, or packaged products to ensure that you are getting the real thing. Below are a few close-up pictures of their latest stickers.

We use the 7542 Batch 101 sticker (blue) as well as the 7262 Batch 101 sticker (red and yellow) for our example. Both stickers are the real thing!

First the whole sticker, click on image to view in full size.

The upper part is shown here for both the 7542 and 7262. Worth noting is how the stamp cut wavy “S” line intersects the “Da Yi” symbol at pretty much the exact same point on both stickers.


In the middle section of these stickers it is worth noticing that:

The hologram strip is double sided. The same “Da Yi” (大益) characters are displayed right side up, but can be seen backwards and upside down on the flip-side of the hologram strip. The characters seen from the back are black in color.

The hologram strip is not consistently placed vertically if you compare the 7542 and 7262 stickers.

The hologram strip is consistent in the surface area it occupies both inside the sticker and on the (outside) face of the sticker. Notice the texture of the area where strip goes into and comes out of the sticker.

Finally on the bottom part we again notice the wavy stamp cut line and where it intersects the characters identifying Menghai Tea Group as the producer. Just below the Menghai Group characters is a continuous line from left to right where “TEATAE” is repeated 14 1/2 times. At the very lowest point 1/4 and 3/4 the way into the sticker the English letters “Da Yi” are written in small print.

In early October I got a call from my friend Mr. Whiskers.  We call him Mister Whiskers because he’s one of the few Chinese we know who can not only grow a beard, but actually wants one.  He’s a long time Lincang-hand and specializes in wild and ancient arbor tea!   Mr. Whiskers invited me to come down to Mengku county and try out some of the mao cha’s that he and the locals harvested.  I jumped at the chance and spent a sleepless night on a dingy bus that wended it’s way through the night to arrive in Lincang.  I changed buses in Lincang and went to Mengku town where I was picked up by my friend.  We had a long lunch in town… it was delicious, but Mr. Whiskers apologized saying that town food was just so-so at best and that tonight we will have much better in the mountains.  He drove his rented jeep up into the hills with me as passenger.  A brief rain soaked the winding mountain road just as we arrived at the end of the road, we parked there along with a couple of other vehicles and headed out by foot to Bang Ma village.

Arriving in town on a small dirt track Mr. Whiskers posed with a lovely old tea tree!

We meet our hosts who are sun-drying the just processed tea.  The roof of their home is the perfect surface to process tea and sun-dry it.

Mr. Whiskers takes me around the village and surrounding mountains to have a look…  The lower altitude areas are a wonderful mix of primitive agriculture and tea trees… Some trees are hundreds of years old, and many others between 60 and 150 years old growing helter skelter on the hillsides.

Something between ancient and plantation exists “old/wild plantation” 老太地!

As we head up higher in the hills the tea trees become bigger and taller… at this height they are not harvested effectively and large un-picked leaves are everywhere.

Just behind a tea tree we spot a little burro who has decided he’s had enough of mankind!