Saving Our Last True Tea Masters

Saving Our Last True Tea Masters

My mission in the tea business has been the same since day one: to bring the teas that no one sees or has seen to the west. I have found in my time living and traveling throughout China that the best teas never get exported. That the companies selling so called “premium teas” are selling mass produced stuff that the true connoisseur would sneer at. Even the USDA Organic symbol means nothing anymore as the regulations are so laxed and so easy to get around for the large tea companies it is almost useless.

What we have had to do is grow the grassroots way. That is how we began and how we will keep it. We work together with all sized farmers as quality is what we care about not quantity and cheap prices. I have some customers ask me for cheaper priced teas sometimes and I tell them the same thing: “you get what you pay for with tea.” There are no shortcuts. The Chinese are willing to pay good money for good tea just like Americans and Europeans are willing to pay good money for good wine. Once you have a real good tea like a Ancient Moonlight White you would never want to drink a standard cheap oolong as most are loaded with heavy duty fertilizers and pesticides and come from tiny little trees with no Qi. I personally don’t even drink 99% of Tie Guan Yins because Anxi, where they are grown is infamous for the super heavy amounts of pesticides and fertilizers they have to use. In China, I have seen many people have to stop drinking Tie Guan Yin as it hurt their stomach and digestion too much.

I have seen these large companies with deep pockets promoting teas that simply should not be drunk. Most of these tea companies tea buyers have never even been to China, yet consider themselves a tea expert. Book knowledge is empty without experience. What about the tea farmer who was raised his whole life to know every aspect about his tea, yet knows no scientific terms or anything. Do you consider him a tea expert or master when you compare him to a person who just finished an online course to become a tea master, but never even held a fresh tealeaf in his hand or has even seen a tea tree other than in a picture? Who is the real master here? Don’t get me wrong, I respect the fact that people are starting to take the initiative to educate themselves, I also support this type of education completely. I have friends who own these certification companies. My point is not to degrade them nor devalue them; my point is that our new society of tea drinkers needs to look beyond the scientific terms and how to identify all the nuances of the flavor and dive into actual experience and respecting the core knowledge of the true tea masters as they are withering away. They are not valued for their efforts, instead large companies selling mass quantities of tea are and this is what has been killing off the real tea artisans.

For me to learn all about teas, I spent countless hours on countless tea plantations learning every aspect I could about growing tea, harvest, processing and tea culture before I really felt I had a grasp on it. I have read many books on tea and seen tea courses, but they only touch one aspect of learning about tea. In my eyes, mastering the art of tea is about experience and lots of it, with the right teachers.

My point here is there are many tea companies who are marketing junk as gold, and many people calling themselves tea masters because they did an online course. The tea business is filled with charlatans and teas I just don’t take seriously. If you are in the tea business to make a quick buck then go back to drinking gunpowder green, it is cheap. If you are a serious tea enthusiast, then get to know what is behind the cup.

- Jay Hunter




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