Austin Hodge’s Qingming Report 2014

Qing Ming 2014

By Austin Hodge, President of Seven Cups
Seven Cups is an importer of Chinese tea, located in Tucson, Arizona

Filed April 6, 2014. An abridged version appeared in World Tea News previously. Read our previous story about Qing Ming and its meaning from our April 7 Need to Know post.

I started writing this on the way up Xigui Mountain in Lincang Country to check out the condition of some ancient tea trees. We raced  along a one lane winding road for about 80 kilometers, starting in Lincang City, a thousand feet above the valley floor. Along the mountain roads there are hard working stone carvers making new facades for the ancestors of local tea growers, as well as plenty of colorful fake money to be burned so that they have some cash. There is plenty of incense also to celebrate Qing Ming, the tomb sweeping holiday, pivotal for both ancestor worship and tea. It was typical of my trip traveling through Lincang Country, visiting areas that are producing some of the most sought after puer. This puer is certainly some of the most expensive, ranging into the thousands of dollars per kilo.

My first question has been how’s the weather? How has it affected the tea? In this area of Yunnan the weather has not been problematic.  The old tea trees are producing excellently. The prices here have been doubling every year, and questions about a new bubble are met with exuberant denial even though the evidence is abundant that a crash is coming.

A few weeks ago I was in Hangzhou in Zhejiang, and then I traveled to Anhui and Fujian. The harvest had just begun in Zhejiang, coming a few days before I got the in Xinchang, guaranteeing a very robust pre-Qingming harvest. In all of those places I could not find any evidence that the hot, dry summer last year would have any effect on this years crop. There has never been any time in history, that I know of, where the was no pre-Qingming tea produced, so I can only see those dire predictions coming out of the Chinese press last year, as an attempt to imitate American cable news journalism. I was a little bit early for the harvest to begin in Huangshan but there was no indication that there would not be a great crop this year. The same was true in the Wuyishan area where twice I was caught in the rain searching for shelter while up in the mountains.

On our way to Xishuanbana in Southern Yunnan, just out side of Jingmai, we were caught in a violent thunderstorm while having dinner. According to one of the peasants that owned the place, the government had been seeding the clouds to create some badly needed rain. The ferocious storm tried to blow his little corrugated metal Chinese greasy spoon away while we ate. Just down the road we passed a massive metal billboard sign that had been blown off of a roof blocking most of the road. This last winter brought record low temperatures to the south of Yunnan; snow fell for the first time in some places, damaging some of the forests.

The day before Qing Ming, yesterday, I got a much more reliable report from an old friend in Youle, on top of one of the ‘Six Famous Mountains’ of Xishaunbana. Yang Guanqi is one of my favorite producers in the area  and my go-to guy when it comes to any question about Xishuanbana.  The rumor about the cloud seeding was probably not true, because the rain had been going on for days, and it rained while we were looking over his ancient tree garden in the afternoon. Still the drought that has been going on for years in Southern Yunnan will not be countered by a few days rain. It has drastically affected the old trees and overall production is way down and will be this year also. The trees will not be harmed, but their new growth will be small and has been decreasing every year. This year will be the no different. The younger bushes are going to produce more quality in contrast. Tea consumers should be very skeptical when buying any cakes being advertised as coming from old trees. The price of all puer will go up this year.

Need to Know (April 7, 2014)

What tea professionals need to start the week —

It’s QingMing….The Global Dubai Tea Forum is about to begin…JT&Tea, a new business from Thomas Shu and Josephine Pan….Rooibee Red Tea for the Whole Family….Arizona Iced Tea off to court…and before you go to buy your Chamomile Colored Mini Cooper T, read this report.


Qing Ming Is Over so Pre-Qing Ming Tea Is on the Way

This year’s Qing Ming Festival was on April 5, celebrating the arrival of spring and the remembrance of ancestors.

For tea lovers, Qing Ming indicates that the much coveted pre-Qing Ming teas will soon be available. Pre-Qing Ming teas are the first harvested each season. Plucking can begin as early as mid-March and finishes just before the festival. Demand is always high for these young leaves.

Interested in pre-Qing Ming teas? Keep in mind that not all tea plants grow at the same time or the same rate, so not all pre-Qing Mings are created equal. Teas like dragonwell are premium pre-Qing Ming picks, while teas from places like Yunnan that are warmer have already passed the moment of the youngest, most tender leaves.


Reports from the UAE and the Dubai Global Tea Forum

Tea Biz editor Dan Bolton has just arrived in Dubai for this year’s Dubai Global Tea Forum. Dubai has seen an increase in tea trade volume of 29% in the last year and an increase in value of 34%. They are now the world’s largest re-exporter of tea, with more than 60% of market share.

The forum will be attended by delegates from 30 tea producing and consuming countries. It opens on Tuesday, April 8 and will close on Thursday, April 10.

Bolton will be providing reports from the conference to Tea Biz so keep watching.


JT & T Inc. to Promote Taiwanese Teas

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 10.01.29 AMJosephine Pan and Thomas Shu, the team behind ABC Tea, has announced the launch of a new tea company JT & Tea Inc. (ABC Tea is now a division of JT & Tea.)

JT&T will be launching an Oolong Sommelier course, a certification program to become a Taiwan Oolong Specialist. JT&T will operate events at the 2014 World Tea Expo on behalf of the Taiwan Tea Manufacturers’ Association including a world origin tasting tour, an oolong rolling demonstration, and a class on tea baking. They will also operate another Taiwan Oolongs Study Tour (TOST) from October 23 – 30, 2014.

Full coverage of JT & T Inc. will come later this week on Tea Biz.


Rooibee Roo, Bottled Rooibos for Kids

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 10.08.23 AMRooibee Red Tea has announced the release of a new product, Rooibee Roo, a bottled rooibos for kids. The concept was to provide the health benefits of rooibos in a form that was more appealing to children by adding cherry, orange and mango flavors. Because it is rooibos, it is naturally caffeine-free.

According to Rooibee Red’s Chief Tea Officer Heather Howell, “I’m happy to fulfill the need of a healthier drink option for children by offering a tea with kid-friendly flavors, filled with unique minerals and antioxidants that also fall in line with school nutrition standards,” said Howell. “As a parent I know how important it is to feel confident about what your children put in their bodies.”

The new product was introduced at Natural Products West and will be sold online and in a limited number of retail stores.


Off to court for Arizona Iced Tea…again…

In a battle that seems like it will never end, a judge has refused an interim buyout payment of $200 million in the AriZona Iced Tea ownership dispute. This will force things to trial beginning next month. Behind the dispute? Co-founder John Ferolito is trying to sell his 50% stake, claiming that the company is worth $4 billion. His partner Domenick Vultaggio said it’s only worth about $400 million. You can read more about the case here in a World Tea News report from 2012. It may be two years old, but since then it’s really been more of the same.


In the Market for a Tea-Fueled Car?

Mini-Cooper-T-626x489And finally, there may have been some disappointed tea fanatics when they found out the new MINI Cooper T that operated on tea leaf biofuel was only an April Fools joke. MINI sent out the release, reporting that their car could get 40 miles per cup of tea and was available in Chamomile Yellow, Red Bush, and Earl Grey. It also offered a Dunk Filtration System that would keep peckish drivers or nearby pedestrians from dipping their biscuits into the fuel tanks.

You can see the original post on the MINI UK Facebook page.


— — —

Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision making. Tea Biz reports what matters along the entire supply chain, emphasizing trustworthy sources and sound market research while discarding fluff and ignoring puffery.

Tea Biz posts are available to use in your company newsletter or website. Purchase reprint and distribution rights for single articles or commission original content.  Click here for details.