It is not only delightful moments that tea offer us, but also amazing memories
We remember trying a Wangong tea for the very first time. A thought came to us: this was the best tea we had ever tried. That tea is very much still in our memory. It had a sweet unbelievable caramel flower creamy profile. It was such a treat that it brings all those tastes back to our memory by just thinking about it.
Best teas usually come from older trees. What’s interesting is that in some specific areas small trees can offer wonderful teas too. The Yiwu Guoyoulin (estate protected forest) ones tend to be exceptional. We are of the opinion that these are magical places where tea trees are impacted with their unique forest energy.
We wanted to talk about our Wangong as it fits into this profile very much and so does our Chawangshu. We find both absolute treats. Whilst Wangong is a treat from beginning to end displaying the caramel flower profile that we mentioned before, the Chawangshu acts differently: its flavours accumulate, come forward and showcase an unbelievable huigan (aftertaste) all of a sudden after a few steps.
It is more important where the tea grows than how old the tree is. We have mentioned this before so we might sound repetitive stressing this again. Nevertheless, we do think this is the case and in that respect Yiwu Guoyoulin teas are the best.
In traditional Chinese thought, bitterness is considered the best flavour to remove heat of the body. Although this concept might sound a bit unique, many cultures use similar ideas. In India, the abundance of cooling lassis balances what would be otherwise a quite hot diet. In the Mediterranean region, cucumber salads in the summer are a must and intuitively, we all understand that peppermint tea is cooling.
We recently launched our 2022 collection and we have a Kucha (bitter tea) from Laomane village in Bulangshan on offer. Although we are open to any teas from Yunnan, we have mainly offered teas from Yiwu and the 6 famous tea mountains. This tea was quickly sold out when we offered it a few years ago. We had to bring it back.
Laomane teas are comprised by 2 varieties, the sweet and the bitter one. The bitter one tends to be slightly more prized than the sweet. Personally, despite so many years of us offering sweet Yiwu teas, we prefer the bitter variety. The tea itself delivers an initial bitterness in the mouth that quickly transforms into a lovely and complex sweet aftertaste. If you enjoy bitterness in tea, we would recommend this one. If you don’t, we would still recommend you to at least sample it, especially in a hot day like what we are experiencing now. It will cool you down.
Tea Encounter started in 2018 and it has truly been an amazing experience. It is a privilege to be able to connect with people who share our passion and be part of the tea conversation. As part of our continuous growth, we are delighted to inform all our customers/tea friends that we just launched our very own Chinese website based in Kunming.
We will continue having our UK warehouse. Having a permanent structure in China was always on our mind. We can now offer teas much faster than before. For instance, we already have our 2022 collection available on our Kunming website.
Fangmingyuan is a Beijing-based tea company known for sourcing really interesting cakes. Our visits to them have always been quite an experience. If you ever go to China and experience tea being served to you in Gong Fu style, you will soon realise that everyone does it in her own unique way. We believe that this is one of the strengths of this very method, its potential for creativity. Today, we added to our website Fangmingyuan cakes that were sold out, and decided to rinse the tea Fangmingyuan style in our tea session. They never rinse the tea with boiling water straight from the kettle. Instead, they add the water first to the Cha Hai and only then to the Gaiwan. We didn’t ask the reason for it but could imagine a few. Perhaps not to waste much of the tea with the rinse, or to slowly initiate a tea session, or rather to protect the tea ware. We will ask her in our next visit.
One of the tasks of selling tea is to test ones teas to see how they’re progressing. A revisit was in order to the great 2003 Yuanjiutang Ban Zhang , the oldest tea that we currently have on offer.
I rather like its dry clean storage from Hebei in China. I rinse the tea once and am ready to go.
Beautiful golden orange
First steeps are on
woody sweet and spicy side but mainly woody.
later steeps actually the tea becomes sweeter and perhaps even
thicker. The mouth feel is strong and its sweetness really addictive.
Sweet cotton candy, woody sweet notes and a
sticky texture. I am surprised with
its stamina. It brews for many steeps and I actually enjoy its later
steeps the most. I can’t get enough of its
cotton candy sweetness and I taste it for hours and
hours after finishing the session.
One of the
great things about this tea is smelling the tea leaves.
The following day I steep it for 15 minutes and am reminded of that cotton candy flavour that I loved and amazing memories pop to my mind.
I’ve always looked at this image with great perplexity. It just takes me to another era. It represents a traditional world that we no longer experience and shows us the hardship of peoples’ life in those days. These potters would walk with 150 to 300 pounds of tea on their back and trudge up to 6 miles per day in the Tea Horse route that went from Sichuan or Yunnan to Tibet. Tea was exchanged for horses. The Tea Horse route of course defined tremendously the tea itself. Large tea varietals were pressed, as they still are today, into bricks in order to facilitate transportation. By the time the tea reached its destination, its characteristics had effectively changed.
We, who love tea, are keeping this tradition alive.
As for this humble chazhuang, we will be soon offering another brand.
A few years ago I saw an amazing documentary about puer tea production in Yiwu, Yunnan. It was a research project by the anthropologist Jinghong Zhang, a Yunnan University lecturer . The documentary is composed by several parts but the one I found most interesting was the one featuring a tea producer named Mr. Zheng. This wasn’t a promotional video. Mr. Zheng wasn’t trying to sell his tea. It was instead a research project into the puer world where he shared his knowledge with the author. I was so impressed that I tried to find his teas for a long time without success. Eventually, I managed to reach Mr. Zheng and decided to open Tea Encounter website where I can now share his teas with others. In case you haven’t had the chance to see the documentary and you are a puer tea drinker, I would strongly recommend you to.
And now the journey begins. Perhaps it just continues. I decided to open this tea shop as a way of continuing my tea journey, as a way of accessing teas that I found inaccessible in the west, as a way of visiting tea mountains, knowing tea producers and sharing my interest in tea with others. Tea drinking is an incomparable experience that leaves marks on us like very few other things would in life. I still remember vividly tea sessions that I had several years ago. I feel blessed being able to experience such moments. I think we, tea drinkers, all feel that. In the last few years, I have quietly listened to people discussing tea in the online community which showed me how others, outside China, share the same passion for tea. That motivated me to open this shop and to be part of that conversation.
Here I will not make statements, such as a tea being from an 800-year-old tree, that could hardly be proven. I will never use health benefits for the purpose of selling tea. I may express that tea experience is some sort of meditation, as I believe it is, but I don’t want to use Buddhism or any other eastern philosophy with a commercial interest. What I want to do is to share and offer tea experiences.