Reading the leaves of a booming industry

Published on Momentum on 12th August 2016:

In a cozy room furnished with hand-carved mahogany armchairs, Chinese watercolors and precisely trimmed bonsai, I’m handed a dullish gray teapot. It’s permanently installed at this inconspicuous teahouse, just one of a few thousand in the city of Chengdu, where the best teas are sold at an eye-watering 2,000 yuan (about $300) per gram. Cosmopolitan Chengdu, a second-tier city in southwest China, was once an important stop on the ancient Tea Horse Road, the Southern Silk Road that brought tea and horses into central China from Yunnan province on the Myanmar border and Tibet in the west.

The pot is custom-made from solid silver, I’m told, and costs some 10,000 yuan ($1,500)—about a quarter of the average annual salary in China. Even in this tea-obsessed city, it’s unusual to own such an item, let alone leave it at your favorite teahouse. No names are mentioned but, when I ask, a subtle upward curve of the hostess’ lips confirms that its owner is a developer who made his fortune during the city’s property boom.

It’s certainly an extravagant scenario. But it barely scrapes the surface of the financial sums that can change hands among tea connoisseurs in pursuit of their obsession.

Read more at Momentum

A time for cha: traditional Chinese tea in Chengdu

Published on Lonely Planet on 23rd September 2014:

Qin Xie Traditional tea set SuWei Cha Hao

Drinking tea is as central to life in Chengdu as its pungent Sichuan peppercorns or the city’s other favourite pastime, mah-jong.

Qin Xie Tea and sunflower seeds, People's Park

Many people carry flasks, pre-filled with tea leaves, ready for hot water wherever they go. Others head to the city’s many teahouses.

Qin Xie Playing mahjong Cultural Park

A single street might be populated with five or six different teahouses; the same again can be found on the next. It’s a density that persists whether you’re in the heart of the city or in the suburbs.

Qin Xie Reading Bai Tan Yuan

Read more at Lonely Planet

JING launches Nilgiri Black

Published on Foodepedia on 19th August 2010:

Mixologist with cocktail

Tea! Oh glorious tea!

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a big fan of the stuff and there are few weekends when I’m not sitting somewhere with a pot to myself. So what better way to spend a Tuesday evening than to attend the launch of a new tea from JING, supplier to Michelin restaurants and five star hotels?

The little soiree took place at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster, where the evening can only be described as tealicious with tea cocktails, tea friendly canapés and of course the all important cup of tea.

Curious about what it is?

The new addition, bolstering JING’s already burgeoning portfolio of teas, is a black tea from the Coonoor Tea Estate in Nilgiri, India, aptly named Nilgiri Black. If brewed for a couple of minutes, it tastes super light and fresh like a green tea. If left a little longer, it would become heavy quite quickly but perhaps not enough to require milk. Although in a cocktail, it’s probably not quite fragrant enough to beat off the competition from Earl Grey. Still, I think the Nilgiri Black would make a nice cup of chai.

Guess what I will be trying out in my teapot this weekend? Makes a change from my usual Sikkim TGFOP I suppose. (that’s ‘tippy golden flowery orange pekoe’ and not ‘too good for ordinary people’)