2018 Spring in Yunnan

This spring I spent just over a month in Yunnan. Now that I’m back in Melbourne, patiently awaiting our new teas to finish being pressed, wrapped, and shipped, here’s a collection of thoughts on the season.

Old arbour tea trees in Xishaungbanna

On my drive from the airport on arrival, the sheer amount of construction and development immediately stood out. Each time I come to Yunnan, more roads are being built, there  are new tea factories and big real estate developments, with infrastructure being being torn down and rebuilt on a massive scale. Even since I was last there, around six months ago for the autumn season, many places I visited have changed dramatically. Walking around larger cities and towns revealed several massive public work projects, that had begun on my last trip, were nearing completion. A farmer I visited had built a new road much further up the tea mountain to their family plot, cutting out half an hour of walking. Everywhere you look, in small villages, larger towns, and everything in between, there is a constant sight and buzz of earth movers, construction workers, piles of building materials and rubble, steel being cut, and buildings, factories, and infrastructure going up at an amazing pace. It’s been this way for some time, but I’m always taken aback to see how much gets done in such a short time.

Fresh puer tea growth

People’s way of life is changing on the daily in Yunnan. At least the parts where there is tea, and therefore money. Government initiatives to beautify and improve parts of Yunnan speak to a continued institutional investment in the future of puer tea.

Well, it’s a reflection of the economic power in puer.

 

‘Oh boy, prices are high this year!’

This gets said every year by tea buyers, myself included. It’s to be expected, really.

Someone wise once told me there are essentially two types of puer tea (referring specifically to buying fresh maocha);

 

  1. Tea that is expensive.
  2. Tea that is going to become expensive.

What does all this mean, practically, for our humble enterprise here at KUURA?

Well, prices for maocha were up across the board. In some villages the price was 20-30% higher than last year. That’s a little nuts. There was nothing particular spectacular about the 2018 spring season. The weather was pretty normal, yields seemed standard . Overall, I feel with a lot of teas where I tried both the 2017 and 2018 versions, the 2018 was only slightly better .,. and I’m talking marginally. Not enough to warrant such aggressive price increases.

Tea picking basket amongst the forest, Yunnan.


But not all the 2018 teas were better; for example, I didn’t pick up any of this years production of Floating Point or Ghost, because they just weren’t as good as last years.

That being said, after doing the necessary hard yards of drinking through endless samples, there was some good tea to be had, for not-outrageous prices. I decided to focus my resources into a pretty small collection of tea I consider to be excellent, rather than just producing a bunch of different cakes. The result is a tight, curated collection this year, that I hope you will enjoy. I only plan to release some of the material I bought, as my usual strategy involves ageing material loose for at least 6 months before pressing. I think this does wonders for taking the fresh edge off tea before pressing it. Funnily enough, one of the teas I’m most excited about is not even from Yunnan, and is aged already.

 

But, you’ll just have to wait and see.

 

My favourite noodles of the season, with thinly sliced beef, and a sour spicy soup with tomato and plenty of pickled vegetables.

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