Monday, December 14, 2009

Back to LA - 2 tea expos

Private Tea Museum in Shen Zhen.

I am back for a day from my 3 weeks long trip to China. Went to work at the shop on Sunday, and very happy to see some familiar faces! Had dinner with friends on Saturday (landing day) night and Sunday night. I am now jet lagging and sleepless in early hours on Monday.

Thinking I should catch up on the pictures and turns out my card reader won't read this flash card I bought from China. I ran out of space fast (less than a week). Will find a way to download pictures tomorrow or whenever that happens.

Anyways, I'll just write along as I fast reverse to 3 weeks ago. It was great experience, great trip with some minor dislikes. If I were there alone, I'd have hated most of the trip and came home much earlier. Over all I enjoyed the bigger and positive aspects of the trip, hated the air and common people quality.

My plane landed in Guang Zhou on the 25th. I attended the Guang Zhou tea expo from the 26th thru the 30th, hang around the exhibit booth of my tea master's most of the time. It had over 1100 vendors, green, white, oolong, red, black, pu-erh, herb, tea pots, furniture and some other odds and end stuff. It's overwhelming, all I bought at the show were tea wares, not even 1 tea. I was frighten by the pretty sales girls, they follow you so close and bark at your ears constantly, they actually spit on your face. I HATE pretty sales girls in China at any store. Speaking of which, most people in China only speak to you when you dress nicely and LOOK rich. Otherwise they won't answer your questions and give you dirty looks. *sigh* When I am on the road, sweat pants and t-shirt or long sleeve shirt are my preferred and only outfit, comfort comes first no mater what. So after 20 hours of flying, 1 hours of taxi ride to the hotel. The girls at the front desk informed me my reservation did not exist. No cell phone, no master insight, I panicked a little and asked for a public phone. Her answer was "it's out side". Out side of where????? I walked over to the next hotel and ask for reservation and phone, they were nicer and charged me for phone usage. So I was told the first hotel was the correct one, I wandered back and book a room right there and then. After a shower and changed into decent clothing, I walked down to the lobby all refreshed. Guess what, the 2 exact same girls were looking at me like I am a whole new person WITH money. They nicely initiated conversation with me for no reason other than I looked like I had money. I wanted to slap the shit out of these snobbish bitches. What right do they have to discriminate anyone based on packaging. Sadly this is common in China. If you can be nice, be nice equally, or discriminate equally! I'd have more respect for them if they weren't nice to me after I changed clothing. Anyways, enough bitching of 1 out of many little incidents I disliked.

4.5 days at the tea expo was fun. My perception is lots mediocre teas, most of them are in the range of 300 to 400 rmb (it's the most common spending level per 500g). 80% of the teas fall in this price range. There are some good teas, but NO outstanding teas. I was later told that, most people ask for free samples, the vendors can not afford to give away good teas, so you won't find them at the expo or any ordinary tea shops. Simply there is not enough great teas to go around, either people keep them for self consumption or sold to the elites and powerful only. Some times money can't buy you happiness, in this case great tea. You need to know the right people, show you are worthy and genuine, and have the money to pay for it. Well, this is a problem created by 12 billions population. There are way too many people fighting for the small quantity, also wealth in general. Business sales in China are VERY aggressive. Life is less complicated here in the west I supposed, and gladly so.

Thursday night, my tea master was invited to give a lecture about Tea culture emphasizing on Gong Fu Cha at the Hua Nan Nong Ye University-China South Agriculture University in Guang Zhou. This is the first time I had the chance to sit in his lecture. I ONLY learned how to brew tea during this trip, as I did not know how to brew tea previously. No one can brew tea with that much science to back up each and every move like he does. I learned a lot about Dan Cong, but very little on brewing technique from him previously. This is a whole new level of tea brewing for me. This is also the first lecture he talked about the science of tea brewing (because his best student is in the class :P), reason being not that many people know enough to comprehend and able to utilize it. And surely but sadly, after 2.5 hours of lecturing, a graduate student brewed tea for the 7 of us, he did not get a word out of the lecture, after my master showed him twice how to pour water and tea, he still didn't get it. I walked away and I could feel my master's anger and despair. He later told us he wanted to scold the professor for misleading the kids. Today's young minds in China are so naive and immalleable. It makes me ill to think all the knowledge of the wise could be lost because today's young people do not find them meaningful and valuable. One thing my tea master said has sadden me: when you drink tea at this level, you become lonely and self-isolated simply because no one else can understand you even though a trainful of people swamp you inquest of your knowledge. I think this philosophy applies to anyone who has mastered extremity of any given subject.

The last 3 days of my trip I spent in Shen Zhen, a city only 1.5 hours away from Guang Zhou. This wasn't on my original plan, but turned out great. The primarily reason for the detour was to attend the International Tea Culture Research and Exchange Meeting. This meeting also coincided with the 2nd annual Shen Zhen Tea Expo which is much smaller than the Guang Zhou expo. The first evening we had Hang Zhou cuisine, which I didn't have to be there to enjoy. I felt my detour from Hang Zhou was made up in a way. :)

During the meeting a bunch of the top guns showed up, researchers, city councils, provincial agricultural department heads from most of the tea producing regions showed up. My grand tea master - master of my master showed up as well. The meeting began from the 9th to the 12th, about 80 attendees from 16 provinces, Japan, Korea and me from the US. The group was invited to have a casual tea meeting at a private tea museum. A collection of clay pots, old teas, tools, books and paintings were opened to our viewing. My favorite is the long scroll of Chinese calligraphy of Tea Classic goes from the front all the way to the end of the hall way, about 50 yards long.

I picked up a couple of teas at this expo knowing I am coming home at the end of my exile. I'd buy more if I had more time. Both are tea flower teas from Liu Bao tea trees, one is all tiny flower buds about 6 years old, one is large buds-almost open, freshly picked recently (tea trees bloom in Nov). They are very different, the fresh one is spicy, the older one is sweet and soothing, my British boy calls it aromatic air as you swallow it. The fragrance lasts 15 brews. I wanted to buy her out if I could carry that much weight. :P
My eyes are sleepy finally... Will continue with my stories in early mornings of god knows how many more to come... :D


LACheesemonger said...

Pro tip Imen:

Rudy K wears jeans, cb boots & grey-T, but a $30k watch and designer shades...takes his Chi to any restaurant he wants.

In China, wear bling, same as here (but not to street markets unless you want to get robbed, lol)...

*fake* expensive looking jewelery, pretty be-yotches (don't they have any luggage caddies/baggage boyz/bastards @hotels?) can't tell the difference!

Can all the people who paid 4 tea brewing classes get a credit applied to the new 'way' :D. When RU going to do the 'new' traditional 'master brewing' class...I promise after 2.5hrs I will get 1 or 2 words out of it..but U still might want to smack me :p ?

Your entire video on brewing tea, needs to be redone then?

I thought Peter was ur 'teaboy'? Now he's "British" 007 fer d'ladies? :P


Marlena said...

Thank you for a most interesting blog