In the world of tea, where are we, where am I, what is my function in this ever evolving sphere? I found this article in Chinese, the author logically places each and every one of us in a systematical spot in the world of tea base on our knowledge of tea. I translate it and put in my 2 cents worth of thoughts.
1st layer(outer) which is made up of majority of people whom are tea drinkers/consumers.
2nd layer which is made up of tea merchants, people who sell tea as a profession. (moi)
3rd layer which is made up of tea processors, people with skills to turn a green leaf into dried commercial product.
4th layer which is made up of tea farmers, people who grow, maintain, collect leaves from trees.
Consumers are end users who are the least knowledgeable of tea, however their preference is the driving force of the tea business.
Tea merchants posses skills to brew a good cup of tea, a translator/communicators between tea producers and consumers. This group of people know a broad spectrum of tea from every category/type/region, learn about each tea's characteristics and brewing properties. Their knowledge and opinions serve as guidelines, they direct and collect feed backs of trends. I direct my customers toward oolong. Tea merchants can be tea processors at the same time. My latest batch is a medium roasted Ali Shan high mountain tea. The whole process took 3 days at various temperatures. Taste good when hot, cold brew is exceptional!
Tea processors are skilled "chefs" whom turn raw materials into tasty meals. There are endless recipes of existing flavors, and endless possibilities to create new recipes. The best chefs are those whom can improvise base on existing skills and traditional methods, able to recognize and extend strengths of a tea. However, market trend also limits possibilities to think out side of the box. Popularity and exceptional quality are usually unparalleled. Tea processors are specialist of a certain type of tea, rarely cross types. Most tea processors are whole sale tea merchants.
Tea farmers are those grow and nurture plants of tea. This group specialize in a certain verietal as well due to geographic limitation. Majority of them are semi processors producing mao cha before selling to tea processors/merchants.
My personal development began as a common tea drinker to tea taster, now a retail tea merchant, beginning tea processor. I expect to spend many years hovering at this level, learning, practicing, refining my skills. One day I hope to retire in mountain ranges of Phoenix mountain, attend to a couple of old Dan Cong bushes, pick, process, roast and drink from these bushes. I then can say I have been through all 4 layers of the tea sphere.