Who picked my tea? The problem with Assam …

Regular shoppers and people who follow Seibiant will know that we care passionately about our teas and coffees, and a big part of what what matters to us, is that we need to be as confident as possible that the people we buy from are taking care of the environment, the workers and us, you and me.

Nestled in the north-east of India, bordering Bhutan and Bangladesh, the state of Assam is almost synonymous with tea. Around the time of India’s independence in 1947, Assam was one of the richest states in India, but today it is one of the poorest. Assam’s rise and fall can be explained in part by the development of the tea industry, first by the British colonial power and later by the owners of the tea estates and the big brands they sell to.

Today, around 52% of the world’s tea is grown in Assam. Nearly 1 million workers and their families are directly dependent on the tea industry for their livelihoods. Most of the workers who pick tea are women.

Last week, we attended a talk which was organised by Traidcraft Exchange, about the conditions that tea pickers in Assam are having to endure, and what we as tea drinkers and tea suppliers can do to help make sure that they are getting a fair deal.

The focus isn’t on Assam by accident, there are good reasons for the focus to be on this region currently.

  1. Poverty: Assam is one of the poorest states in India, and tea workers in Assam are amongst the lowest paid in India. An Assam tea worker is paid R137 – (£1.51 a day), minimum wage for an unskilled agricultural worker in India is R300 (£3.30) . Additional ‘in-kind’ benefits include services such as housing, sanitation, health facilities, and primary schools, and subsidised food rations, but Traidcraft’s research suggests that these are either not delivered at all, or are delivered poorly. Women have to use their cash wages to pay for services which should be provided by the estate, so have to make choices between educating their children, eating properly, accessing health care, repairing their homes. Many find themselves in debt.
  2. HistoryMost of the people working on the tea estates are descendants of tribal communities such as Adivasi who were brought into Assam by the British in the late 19th and early 20th century. They live in designated settlements called ‘labour lines’. The Plantations Labour Act 1951 gave tea estates a special status under Indian law, whereby the owners of the tea estates were required to provide services to their workforce which would elsewhere be provided by the government. Times have changed however, and the government is reviewing this Act, but in the meantime the workers are still reliant on the estate for their most vital services. Tea estate managers control worker status – whether someone is designated a permanent worker or not, or will get temporary work when available, work environment and working procedures, housing, water and sanitation, creche and primary schooling facilities, health facilities on the estate, access by independent organisations, and access to credit.

For us at Seibiant, there is a big question that must be asked here … Is this actually modern slavery?

What can we do? What is our responsibility?

It is not our role at Seibiant to criticise other tea companies, but we can tell you that Traidcraft have a campaign called “Who Picked My Tea” which is directed at the Big 6 UK tea brands, PG Tips, Twinings, Tetley, Yorkshire, Typhoo and Clipper, which together comprise 70% of the UK tea market. They all use tea grown in Assam. Unilever, Tata and Twinings are significant global players, estimated to account for 20% of the world tea market, so they clearly have a huge, significant influence.  Traidcraft want the Big 6 to publicise which tea plantations they source their tea from, so that drinkers can be confident that the pickers are being paid a decent wage and are treated with respect.

If you want to get involved in the Traidcraft campaign, call into the shop for a postcard to be sent to one of the Big 6, or take a look at their website www.traidcraft.org.uk/tea

What we have done so far at Seibiant is to write to our own suppliers, where we are not buying direct, and asking them how close they are to direct trade, and if they are able to influence their suppliers. We are also attempting to source direct trade tea in Assam from the smaller  tea gardens and co-operatives, which are paying their workers properly, as well as often growing their tea using more sustainable methods.  By buying direct, we are demonstrating to the bigger tea plantations that it is possible to work in a different way to their traditional ways.

If you have any questions about this, our approach, or about the Traidcraft campaign, please don’t hesitate to get in touch

http://www.traidcraft.org.uk/tea

 

We Got Chai!

You can tell that  Autumn is in the air … people are asking for chai in the shop, and Carissa’s drawing pictures of fungi!

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CarissaTanton

Chai is something we’ve tended to limit to this time of year in the shop, partly because it seems to fit better, and we like to emphasise the seasonal nature of what we do – our teas and coffees are only available at certain times of the year, and we should respect that – and extend it to everything else we eat to be honest! I’m finding that the more I’m connected with the farmers who supply us, the easier it is to be aware of what’s available when – there’s no chance of Chaenmorifuku’s white tea now until next summer!

A few weeks ago, we found that everyone was asking if we had chai, but at that time we didn’t – after all, we still thought it was summertime! By now, we have 6 diifferent chai teas, all absolutely delicious, and all very different to each other.

Three of our chai’s are caffeine free, with either rooibos or honeybush, the other three are black tea based.

There is of course a proper way to prepare chai, and our October Tea Tasting is going to be just about that.  We will also be selling proper chai from the shop at Conwy Feast on the last weekend of October. Proper chai is made with the fullest fat milk you can get, and has a spot of honey or sugar to sweeten. I make it at home by brewing my tea strong in a teapot then I pour that stewed tea into a saucepan, add the milk and sugar, and bring it up to the boil, tradition has it that the milk has to come up to the rim of the pan three times. You whisk that creamy skin and foam back into the milky drink. Then, you can wrap yourself in a fluffy blanket, and snuggle on the sofa with your loved on … the dog. Alternatively, make it your break from gardening on one of those autumn days, when all the leaves seem to find themselves into your garden, or put it all in a flask, and take it out into the hills.

Take a look at the webshop for all our chai teas

Japan – Week 2

Phew, what a weekend – glad to get back to the guesthouse for a rest! And I survived a weekend in Kyoto on my own!

The second week of the course started with some proper study! The Science of Tea!

The first session started with a brand new tea – Sun Rouge – which is a purple tea where the green chlorophyll has a red component, like seaweed – lovely made into jelly!

Tea of course is 99.4% water, and 0.6% tea, so the water also is significant.

We talked at length about the catechins, theanine, vitamins, caffeine, and their health benefits, with some crazy experiments!

We visited some other tea farms, with a focus on traditional and modern farming methods, particularly organic and natural farming, and these photos below are of a tea field belonging to Ryo-san, who left a job in Tokyo as a computer programmer, to buy a tea farm in Wazuka, growing organic teas. He is developing new teas for Japan, all organic,  and he gave us all a sample of the most delicious white tea – when you drink it, you can taste the way the field smells! You can really taste the freshness of the tea, the smell of the leaf, and you can feel the heat and the humidity! We have a very small amount in the shop, not for sale as yet, but we will be tasting it at the July tea tasting session at the end of the month. I don’t think he’s shipping outside of Japan at the moment, but I’m desperate to get some more of that for you to try.

       

Machine picked and hand picked bushes

Everywhere you go in this area of Japan, you smell this lovely toasty smell – which turns out to be Houjicha, a roasted green tea which is regarded as a Welcome Tea – so you get it free with meals in lots of places, you get samples of it in shops, and we had it constantly throughout each of our classes! Cold brew most of the time, but hot when it was raining. It made me realise that the quality of the houjicha in the shop isn’t particularly great, and as soon as I tasted the Natural Houjicha, I had to get some for the shop. Natural growing methods mean no fertilizers, pesticides, and the whole process actually goes beyond organic in many ways. This particular one is also ‘sand-roasted’ which keeps the leaf flatter. We actually had the opportunity to roast some of our own, using the same method as people use in their own homes – one day we’ll get this for the shop!

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Slo-mo Houjicha roasting!

Wednesday was a long day out – in the rain – we were catching some of that typhoon which caused all the damage in Japan.  We visited a tea auction, then a very high spec matcha factory which saw us all dress up in white PPE – hats and masks and lab coats, and covers for our shoes – not sure if this was for our benefit or for the matcha. I think this visit brought it home how big the matcha business is in Japan, they buy most of the tencha in the area, and produce huge quantities of cooking and ceremonial matcha – sadly no free samples of matcha here. After this we went to the opposite extreme – a bamboo garden and museum where we met a man who makes chasen, the bamboo whisks which are used for matcha. You could feel the stillness and serenity of this place.

There are very few chasen makers left, and most of the time they pass the knowledge to their children, but this man is 62, and has no children.

From this evening, there were warnings about the weather, and I think we were impressed by the way the Japanese deal with these natural crises – loudspeaker messages keeping people updated, the whole built area is designed to take water away as quickly as possible … in this video clip, the part with water isn’t usually filled with water, but this was the run-off from the hillside, and the pond for when it overflowed.

     

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Japan 2 – End of the First Week

The first week of the course ended with me feeling exhausted, and really needing a quiet and restful weekend, but the reality was very different. We had no accommodation at the guesthouse for the Saturday night, so I’d booked a ‘pod’ at the Millenials hotel in Kyoto – one extreme to the other, but of course,nobody does this kind of thing better than the Japanese.
I started off by going to Uji first. The tea from the Wazuka area is classed as Ujicha, so Uji is very
much the historical capital of the area, with thee oldest tea house, as well as some world heritage sites.
They were of course utterly stunning, to think that these predated cameras, so photogenic! I realised mid afternoon that I was really hungry, so found a cool little restaurant in the tea area, quite modern but with a good vibe to it, where I had my first coffee for a week, iced, but oh boy was it good!
The metal jug holds ‘gum syrup’ which is a sweetener
I then caught the train on to Kyoto Station, caught the bus from there in the general direction of my hotel, checked in, and had a mooch around the area, finishing off at what was a vibrant area after dark. I’m not a city person, so finding a bubble tea bar, and a cat cafe just blew my mind!!
Houjicha Latte Bubble Tea! And the ‘bubbles’ were the proper black tapioca ones, not the fake flavoured ones that you get in the West, that explode flavour in your mouth – you had to chew them!
Japan is a country of contrasts, and Kyoto was full of them. Kyoto Train Station is huge – 7 floors I think, and seems to be a place that people meet, get filmed, have conventions, and there are so many shops and restaurants that you need never leave!
I spent the night at The Millenials, which is a Capsule Hotel. This is a brilliant concept, inexpensive, basic, but has everything you need. I really liked the minimalist approach, the space you have is the size of your double bed, everything from the lighting, the fan, the position of the bed – bed or sofa – is all controlled by an iPhone (only an iPhone 5!) which you get given when you check in – The Millenials is an app on this phone! The showers are amazing, plenty of them, plenty of toilets, there’s a big communal area, with kitchen, working space, and lounging areas. You find it by going into a shop, in which there is a lift, and The Millenials is on the top three floors of this building!
I was looking for teaware for the shop, but didn’t want to spend a fortune, so managed to find some nice pieces, for matcha mostly.
I’d also sat in a couple of places having a drink, and this has inspired me in terms of what I’m going to do in the shop, although whether it works in Conwy I think will depend very much on the way we market it. I think one thing I’m getting from the course is just that, ideas about the direction for the shop, and the business.
Cold brew sencha, avoids the bitterness and astringency that you can get, and you can taste the sweetness of the tea.
The weather has continued to be very hot and humid, but I seem to be coping better with it now, sleeping better generally, although I think the diet is getting to be more of a challenge. Someone sent a link to a weather forecast this morning which says there’s a typhoon on the way, and by this afternoon the weather has changed, cooler, more windy. The rain here when it comes is spectacular, we had a huge thunderstorm yesterday, just after coming down from the fields, but luckily we were in a processing factory at the time – although I do love a good storm and would have loved to be able to see it, not just hear it! Tomorrow we have to travel an hour to a tea auction house, and I suspect it’ll be through rain.

Japan 1 – Being there –

I arrived in Wazuka on Sunday evening after a long journey – very long, very smooth until arriving at Kamo station, late because of a delay at Hong Kong, and there were no taxis around. I was so tired by the time I got to the guesthouse that all I did was shower, and go to bed. I say bed, but those of you who have stayed in Japan, in a traditional ryokan (guesthouse) will know that the bed is a mat on the floor. The first couple of hours sleep was deep, but after that, painful, too painful to get much consistent sleep, waking regularly with painful hips, thighs, shoulders. It was a shared room, and I always worry that I snore!
I woke the next morning, curious to explore my surroundings, feeling very much the new girl, but I’m happy enough exploring on my own, and was rewarded with the most amazing scenery, which I’d missed completely arriving in the dark. The bird song was the first thing that struck me – I swear they sing in Japanese, with the most melodic, loud, almost metallic musical sound – maybe a familiar sound to those who have travelled, but this is my first time in Asia. This wasn’t the only new experience , breakfast was unexpected to say the least! I’m not one to take photographs of my food, but this warranted a photo to be sure! Then managing chopsticks! Fortunately I’m very happy to laugh at myself, and I sure did that, aware that the space under my bit of table was the messiest. I was also hopeful that this would a help me to lose weight here!
So to the start of the course …
We are ten people from all over the world, all tea heads, tea geeks, whatever you want to call us. Three of us are in direct retail, with shops or cafes, others online, some just seem to be travellers with a focus on tea, but what we all have in common is a thirst for knowledge about all aspects of tea, and a depth of knowledge and experience which we all seem very happy to share with each other. Seibiant started very small without a massive financial investment, but I’m stunned by some of these businesses, and I’ll put links to those that I can in this blog or the next.
Two weeks is nowhere near long enough for a course to call itself a Tea Master course, but this is providing a good introduction to tea production in Japan, but I’m thinking of it more as a tea buying/sourcing trip, and to find the stories which help me to sell tea to my customers. I’ve drunk more tea already in the first three days than I normally drink in a month, I haven’t had a coffee since Saturday morning, and I’m coping fine without, although I’m looking toward to a first coffee in Kyoto on Sunday morning – I hope I’m not disappointed!
What else have I done for the first time … I’ve eaten sushi and sashimi and liked them, I’ve had all sorts of things fried in tempura batter – apples! I’ve had matcha ice cream, all sorts of biscuits with matcha, bento box lunches when every part has tea of some sort in it, I’ve picked tea from the field, brought it back to the factory and processed it into black tea, quite a rare tea as it’s from a shaded field, like sencha or tencha, then processed as a black tea.
it’s just over half way through the first week, and so far, it’s been everything I hoped for, and more, I’ve already learned so much, and have amazing additions to the shop tea list, direct from the farmer, which is what Seibiant was aiming for at the start.

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Japan!

It’s now a couple of months since I discovered that I’d been accepted onto this year’s Tea Master Course at Obubu Tea Farm in Wazuka, and I’ve now paid for the course, booked my flight, and got my vaccinations sorted. I’ve got excited, terrified, ok about it, now back to terrified again, but I’m sure by the time I’m on that train to Manchester Airport, I’ll be even more terrified!

I’m lucky that there are lots of YouTube videos about Obubu Tea Farm, often I think done by the interns who spend several months on the farm. It seems that they choose a project to do towards the end of their stay, and some have chosen to focus on promoting the farm on social media. I’m also very lucky that Ailish who is now working in Seibiant speaks Japanese, and is actually going to Japan before me, to teach English there. I have a little crib sheet of basic phrases behind the counter in the shop, and it’s surprising how many people know ‘konnichiwa’! Even more exciting is the fact that the Mayor of Himeji in Japan is visiting Conwy in early June, so we’re hoping we can welcome him to the shop, to say Konnichiwa.

We were given an extensive reading list to work through before the course, and we have those books in the shop, so if anybody wants to have a look, and maybe borrow them, get in touch – they’re rather heavy – more like the sociology of tea, ethnography, history, and a text book of the Japanese Tea Ceremony – seriously strict and heavy! I didn’t know that there are several schools of thought relating to the tea ceremony, and I think we’ll be getting a taste of each of those while on the course. What I’m most looking forward to however is the tea growing and processing, as I think that’ll be useful for the next step in Seibiant’s progress – but more of that in a future blog.

Another big question – me being a notorious light traveller – is the size of bag I take! Do I take a big solid suitcase so that I can bring back teaware and tea, or do I just take my normal size bag, so that I can easily manage it while I’m getting from Osaka to Wazuka! Decisions, decisions!

Spring Greens

I went home from our Spring Greens tasting this week, wide awake and alert, as I generally am after our tastings, and with a plan to write a new blog about the teas we tasted. In the event, I felt too tired, and went to bed, only to be lying there hours later, wide awake, caffeinated, but to snug to get up and start writing, and knowing of course that if I got out of bed, the Beast from the East was going to be out there to get me!

So, chaotic start to the tasting, because of the weather and change of plans etc, but we had two guests, both quite experienced green tea drinkers.

The teas I had planned for this evening were some classics, three Chinese and one Japanese, and then as usual, guests were able to try whatever else they fancied.

First tea up was the Organic Imperial grade Jasmine Pearls, which is a first flush green tea with jasmine flowers. This is a Spring 2017 harvest tea, which we brewed in a glass teapot, to allow the pearls plenty of room to expand out as well as up. 85°, for 20 seconds initially, gradually increasing the brew time with each subsequent steep.  The first steep was if anything, a little heavy on the umami flavour, but that was my fault for a slightly too long steep, but the intense jasmine flavour made up for that. The fresh delicate floral aroma I think was an experience for the two guests – even though one of them had already bought this tea. She said that she was getting new flavours with this brewing than she wasn’t getting at home. The liquor had a pale pink tinge to it, which doesn’t come over in the photo. The mouthfeel is soft, with very little astringency.

The second steep was again delicious, with a peachy aroma, along with the jasmine. We went on to have another two steeps after this, becoming more alert and refreshed with each cup!

The second tea of the evening was the Japanese classic, shade grown Gyokuro. For the last 2-3 weeks before picking, the tea is covered with a shade of bamboo, which encourages the plant to produce more chlorophyll, which in turn means that the tea contains more theanine, the feelgood compound. Gyokuro is a stunning dark green thin leaf, a real high quality tea, spring picked and carefully processed. Having watched the Mei Leaf Youtube video on how to drink gyokuro, I decided to introduce our guests to the more unusual ways of brewing tea. This one we brewed first time at room temperature, for 15 minutes. The liquor was thick, viscous, an amazing bright citrine colour, with a most unexpected flavour. Yes, masses of umami, but also a freshness, grassy, buttered spinach, buttery green vegetables, kale, were all words used to describe the flavour. We tried it again with water at 50°, and the flavour was smoother, lighter – unexpectedly! Third steep at 70° was again fresh, still thick and viscous. Absolutely delicious tea – we finished this one by tasting the leaves – which were unexpectedly mild – said to be very tasty with freshly squeezed lemon and light soy sauce!

Third tea was Long Ching Dragonwell, much much nicer than the Dragonwell we had in the shop before which I thought tasted fishy, but it may have been my inexperience of the umami flavour. Anyway, this one is beautiful, fresh, vegetal, but with an aroma of peach on the second infusion, more of a flavour of beach walks. This had more astringency than the other teas, but that astringency that becomes sweetness in time. We brewed this Grandpa Style, in a long glass, to allow the leaves room to brew, and so we could see the leaves absorb the water and give off their flavour.

Last green tea of the tasting was an unusual tea, but one which is great for newbie green tea drinkers, and we discovered just why it’s so good. Tai Ping Hui Kui is grown in Anhui Province, this is a huge leaf, longer than your average Siniensis leaf, hand processed, which is what makes it expensive, flattened between sheets of parchment or silk, and rolled until flat. in the second of the pictures below you can see the weave of the fabric on the leaf. The darker patches on the leaf are where there is more than one layer of leaf – the bud and the leaf pressed together. Because of the size of the leaf, I brewed this Grandpa Style again, long glass, 75° water, less than 30 second steep. Delicate flavour, floral, fresh, fruity, so unexpected for a green tea. We brewed it a second and third time, and it remained delicious, gentle.

We brewed it a fourth time, but as usual, got distracted by other teas and tea stories, and one of the guests hadn’t heard of Pu-erh, while the other used it daily to enhance his work. I’m very enthusiastic about Pu-erh, and am always keen to share a pot, so this is what we did, tasting the 2005 Yue Che Yue Xiang a couple of times. We then remembered about the fourth steeping of the TPHK, and not expecting much, tasted it again – wow! Superb – no bitterness – considering it had been steeping 30 minutes! The delicate flavours were all still there, the cool water allowed us to taste all the nuances of the tea.

Enthusiastic about the teas we tasted, I decided to write the March blog about the teas, and was planning to stay up writing … but that didn’t happen.

 

January Resolutions – can tea help?

This is the time of year when we all get to thinking about new resolutions, making changes, often about getting healthy. I know I’ve put on a few inches (curves) over the past few months – I blame the fudge from Mawfudge and the gold top milk from Llaethdy Llyn, all delicious, but more calories than I’m using! Maybe also a touch of contentment slipping in there too 😊

Last Spring, we introduced Teatox which I mentioned briefly in my last post, but there are lots of teas which are renowned for their health benefits. Tea has always played a big part in Traditional Chinese Medicine and in Japanese medicine, and I’m going to talk about some of those, and some other blends that we have in store which are great for a range of health benefits.

Lets talk Green Teas first …

Green teas have a reputation for speeding up the metabolism, which obviously is going to help with managing your weight.

Matcha is known as a superfood with many amazing health benefits, including improving your immune system. Researchers have found that the concentration of antioxidants available in matcha tea is 10 times greater than the amount of EGCG available in other fine green teas.

We have a few more green teas, plain and flavoured, all very reasonably priced. We will be expanding our range over the next few weeks to prepare for the Spring Greens Tea Tasting at the end of February, so if you fancy the health benefits but aren’t sure which to try, come along to this. The king of the green teas of course is Gyokuro, a highly prized Japanese green tea, visually stunning as leaf and liquor. We also have Gunpowder, Jasmine Blossom Green Tea, and my favourite, the Mao Jia. We have a fresh new supply of Sencha Red Ginseng in too, many people’s favourite already.

 

Lets talk about Oolongs

Studies have shown that the production of anti-bacterial proteins is higher in Oolong tea drinkers, which indicates they have a strong immune system. We suggest our Tie Guan Yin is a reasonably priced place to start on oolongs.

Lets talk Pu-erh

Pu Erh Tea, alongside a healthy diet, is known to help people lose weight by increasing the metabolism. We suggest drinking a little while after food to experience the full effects of the tea. The trend for fermented products is well known, and pu-erh fits within this, along with kombucha, kefir and so on. I rave about the benefits I have felt from it already, physically and mentally.

Lets talk herbal and floral tisanes

Immunitea: A caffeine-free drink packed with antioxidants to help your digestive system. It contains lemongrass, ginger, hibiscus and rose hip shells. Top Tip: this is also a wonderful tea to drink if feeling sick as the ginger helps to settle the stomach

Turmeric Blend: Curcumin – the component that gives turmeric root its distinctive yellowy-orange colour – is thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which – studies show – could help to lower the risk of heart attacks in some people. It also has the reputation of helping to ease joint pains, and other inflammatory problems.

Tuscany Rose Petals and Rosebuds: When you think of your health, one of the first things you think of is your heart. Our Rose tisane is revered for its ability to increase circulation and improve heart health.

Winter Warmer: This is a blend of Keemun, ginger root, blood orange and pu-erh. In TCM Keemun is used for ‘brain fog’, colds, and to relieve that general sluggishness we feel at this time of year. Together with the other fruits and herbs,

If sleep is your problem, then try our range of bedtime teas, which are designed to help calm and settle you for sleep.

Bedtime #1: our own blend of oatstraw, rose, lavender, hibiscus, lemongrass, lime blossom and rooibos is an effective sedative with no adverse effects (although beware the reduction in blood pressure that you may get from the hibiscus – fine if you drink it in bed!)

Petalau: Blodyn Apothecary’s blend of camomile, rose and calendula.

Camomile Flowers: the nicest tasting camomile I’ve ever had, sweet and floral.

 

Have you heard about guayusa? This is a South American herb tea, along the lines of Mate, from the Ilex (holly) family, just like mate.  It’s an energetic leaf exclusively from the Ecuadorian amazon rainforest which has been used for centuries by indigenous people from the zone as a natural energy source. We’ll be getting some samples in to try, and if we think it’s something that our customers will like, we’ll be getting it in.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year

Well what a December that was! Carissa set us a target which we all thought was wildly unachievable, and blow me down, we very nearly got there! We had our busiest days ever, but made fewer teas and coffees than we ever had! I can’t believe how much tea and coffee we’ve gone through, and this week, we came very close to running out of coffee – the shelves in the back room had no unopened packs on them! We have however now had deliveries of lots of new coffees for the New Year, all roasted on 2 January when the roasters got back to work so mega-fresca!

So, let’s take some time out to reflect on where we are now, and what we have planned for the coming year. The big news for me personally is that I have now officially retired – well, sort of – I’ve taken my NHS pension, and retired just before Christmas, but also went back to work in the same job just before Christmas too! Feels completely different though 😊 Carissa got to her target of 100 sales in her Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CarissaTanton?ref=search_shop_redirect and made more and more sales of her lovely artwork in the shop. Jake beat us all in his daily sales in the shop, but he didn’t manage to sell that lovely copper stove-top coffee maker which was his main aim – Carissa sold that one. Santa Claus did bring him an Aeropress and some very nice  Esmeralda Geisha though.

If you’ve been in the shop recently, you’ll have noticed our Particularly Fine Teas shelf. We’re very excited about this one, and quite honestly, getting more excited all the time. We introduced people to Pu-erh tea, and have some good value Pu-erh’s on the shelf – including our delicious and dinky tangerine Pu-erh’s. Some Pu-erh tea can rightly be called ‘vintage’ and our oldest is 1990, although it’s not a cake, but loose Pu-erh, which tends to age quicker but tastes different. We have two cakes from the Menghai factory, so dry stored, and very expertly fermented. One of them gives you that ‘oo-erh’ feeling that you get after a few minutes of a good Pu-erh, the other less so – more soothing than stimulating, but they’re both very interesting tasting – if you like Pu-erh, that it -it’s not to everyone’s taste. I keep getting told that I should do a Vlog about Pu-erh – I think my enthusiasm amuses people! I’ll be honest though, I’m very much still learning about Pu-erh, so if you know lots, come and talk to us – we love to learn more about tea!

Just before Christmas we took delivery of a couple of very nice, organically grown oolongs. The farmer made contact initially in September of 2016, but at that time, while I was interested, I didn’t know if we had the clientele who would be interested in that quality of tea, and also of course the cost. It was also at that time an awful lot of money for me to be spending on that much tea, and I really didn’t know enough about it. Since then, our knowledge and experience and in fact expertise has grown to such an extent, that this tea just had to be part of our range. It’s the first time I’ve bought direct from a farmer, and to be honest, I’ve had absolutely no regrets. I bought Mi Lan Xiang Dan Cong, and Da Wu Ye. We had the Mi Lan Dan Cong from another supplier in October, by a mile the most expensive tea we’ve had in the shop, and I didn’t expect it to sell. We were sold out of it within a month of having it on the shelf! Lots of people have asked for it since, so I was keen to find it, but as this tea is only harvested in Spring, I didn’t expect to find any. I got lucky! Having tasted this, the flavour is stunning, heavy orchid flavour, rich but delicate at the same time. I love it -and we’ll be using this tea in our January Tea Tasting on 31 January which is An Introduction to Gong Fu Cha. The other oolong, Da Wu Ye is more toasty in flavour, but again, delicious. We’ll probably have a horizontal tasting of these two in the January tasting. If you want to come along, you can book on the Events page of the website https://www.seibiantcoffi.co.uk/?event=tea-tasting-2018-01-25.

So, what are we planning for 2018, apart from getting to know our new teas and coffees? Travel is on the cards for us, and I’m planning a trip to China to explore some tea growing areas. I’m planning to travel to Yunnan in particular, but I’m also keen to go to the Feng Huang Mountain area, Chaozhou, which is in the Guangdong province, home of our new oolongs. I’d also like to go to Fujian, as I’ve heard of a place called Tong Mu, which is where unsmoked Lapsang is grown – a very scenic area, but I just love the sound of the tea! I’m not sure if I’ll manage to get to all these areas, in the time I have, but we’ll see nearer the time.

I’m also making contacts with regard to trying to see if we can grow tea in North Wales. I’ve made some contacts already, and need to work on that. Get in touch if you’re interested in getting involved, in any way, from allotments to try the plants on, or if you have any expertise in that area.

If you have a small business and you feel that you would like to expand or develop your tea range – or your coffee range, just get in touch. We are very responsive to queries, and are happy to develop a tea especially for you. We can do private tasting sessions so you can explore the options. You may like to find a tea for your Afternoon Teas, or a breakfast tea for your B&B – we already supply coffee to a number of businesses. We can deliver very freshly ground coffee as often as you would like!

You may recall that this time last year we launched our Teatox Teas – we are preparing these once more, and they should be on the shelves in a couple of weeks – the Morning Detox which is a lively green tea, and the Daytime Detox which is an energy boosting, cleansing tea  with nettle and Yerba Mate for the afternoon slump. We also still have the Bedtime No 1, which was last year’s Evening Detox, and was so popular we had to keep it on the shelves all year! We still have Matcha, but we won’t be doing the Powders, as they were frankly disgusting to drink but they did the job in terms of boosting your metabolism – if you want them, we can sell you matcha, and mate/matcha and tell you the recipe!

We’re expecting a quiet couple of months, so do take advantage of the opportunity to call in and have an informal tasting any time of day! We don’t need any excuse to taste teas and coffees!

Let us know if there’s anything you like, don’t like, or want us to do more of – and you know we like a challenge!! And remember, keep away from them teabags, and drink real good tea!

Happy New Year!