Source of origin


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Source of origin

Postby maxtillberg » May 16th, '10, 14:47

Since there are so many tea producers in China, I always try to find out who produced the tea I buy (farms / collective / factory). I Have ordered a great number of teas from TeaSpring but unfortunately it is only a few where they state the producer and I was wondering if anyone knows where TeaSpring get their teas from? I also wonder if anyone knows who runs TeaSpring, there were very little information on the company website.

Yours sincerely
Max Tillberg
Last edited by maxtillberg on May 19th, '10, 03:19, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Questions about TeaSpring

Postby Chip » May 16th, '10, 14:59

Hi and welcome to TeaChat.

Perhaps pose your question in their TC TeaVendor topic. Trying to get some discussion in their TeaVedor topic. http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=11982

Generally speaking, they answer questions pretty quickly. Perhaps try contacting them.
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Re: Questions about TeaSpring

Postby maxtillberg » May 19th, '10, 03:16

I thought that the lack of information was due to lack of interest among the customers, or perhaps that they bought the tea through intermediaries, and therefore did not know who produced the tea that they sell. I received a response from TeaSpring yesterday and it turned out that "...we are not able to disclose the source of our teas as this is considered to be a trade secret in tea business.”. I now wonder if it is just me who is disturbed by not being able to find out who has produced the tea I drink. Moreover, this is just a problem with teas from China. When I buy Indian tea, I always know from which plantation it comes and often batch number as well.

As a consumer, I think I am entitled to know who produced the tea. How else can I be able to verify the quality and be able to learn more about the product? This is particularly important as it is a food product that could affect my health. There are so many large and small scale producers in China and known cases of counterfeits so there is no way I can find out the source by myself.

TeaSpring as not the only vendor that refuses to reveal the origin of the tea they sell. I have not asked Dragon Tea House and Jing Tea Shop, but they seldom indicates the producer on the website. Yunnan Sourcing is an exception, Scott answered fast and in detail.

I find it hard to believe that this secrecy will be beneficial in long run, not for the vendors and not for the tea industry. When it comes to other beverages, like wine and whiskey, this is never a problem.

Yours sincerely
Max Tillberg
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Re: Source of origin

Postby IPT » May 19th, '10, 05:01

Welcome Max,

I am in the tea business, so I feel I can answer this for you. There are a lot of factors why websites don't name their sources. Generally it is because they simply don't know. They buy it from middlemen who travel around China and bring it to them. A lot of those middlemen don't know either because they go to a main tea selling area and buy in bulk where teas often get mixed. It is actually very rare for a tea retailer to personally go and pick out their teas, because tea is produced in all corners of China and it takes a great deal of time and money to do that. A lot of the areas are not too accessible and it can take days to get there and sometimes once you get there, you find out that they sold out their inventory earlier in the day.

For those that do know their sources, it is usually a highly guarded secret because if they reveal their sources, others will go in and buy the tea out from under them. The very high quality producers only makes a small amount each year, and generally it takes a lot of wheeling and deeling and meetings and dinners to source a tea. They can be extremely selective of who they sell to because their product is rare and hard to come by. It can take years to get a source and a lot of money of visiting and purchasing before they will sell to you, and that relationship has to be maintained with regular visits and communications. After so much time invested, you don't want others to know where you get your tea because if they outbid you, then you've lost all that time and investment. It's happened to me a couple of times and it is infuriating. To personally source a tea also means that you would have to live in China because otherwise it is viably impossible.

Other dealers don't want you to know where they source their teas because it is not of the highest quality and they don't want you to know this. Even if a retailer told you where they source their tea, you'd never know if it was true, because there's no way for you to verify it. They could say anything and consumers would never know if it was true.

I hope this answers your question. If you have any more, let me know.
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Re: Source of origin

Postby IPT » May 19th, '10, 05:03

IPT wrote:Welcome Max,

I am in the tea business, so I feel I can answer this for you. There are a lot of factors why websites don't name their sources. Generally it is because they simply don't know. They buy it from middlemen who travel around China and bring it to them. A lot of those middlemen don't know either because they go to a main tea selling area and buy in bulk where teas often get mixed. Generally tea is made by individual families or groups of families who just put all their teas together and sell it in a market. It is actually very rare for a tea retailer to personally go and pick out their teas from the producers, because tea is produced in all corners of China and it takes a great deal of time and money to do that. A lot of the areas are not too accessible and it can take days to get there and sometimes once you get there, you find out that they sold out their inventory earlier in the day.

For those that do know their sources, it is usually a highly guarded secret because if they reveal their sources, others will go in and buy the tea out from under them. The very high quality producers only makes a small amount each year, and generally it takes a lot of wheeling and deeling and meetings and dinners to source a tea. They can be extremely selective of who they sell to because their product is rare and hard to come by. It can take years to get a source and a lot of money of visiting and purchasing before they will sell to you, and that relationship has to be maintained with regular visits and communications. After so much time invested, you don't want others to know where you get your tea because if they outbid you, then you've lost all that time and investment. It's happened to me a couple of times and it is infuriating. To personally source a tea also means that you would have to live in China because otherwise it is viably impossible.

Other dealers don't want you to know where they source their teas because it is not of the highest quality and they don't want you to know this. Even if a retailer told you where they source their tea, you'd never know if it was true, because there's no way for you to verify it. They could say anything and consumers would never know if it was true.

I hope this answers your question. If you have any more, let me know.
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Re: Source of origin

Postby maxtillberg » May 19th, '10, 05:27

Thanks for your insightful response. I understand the difficulty for vendors but this makes it no less frustrating. The tea I think about is mainly the ones produced in slightly larger volumes and not the most exclusive, but naturally I want to know all about these as well. The problem is that as a customer I find it difficult to know the reason why a vendor do not want to reveal who made the tea. It may be due to the desire to protect his source but equally well it may be ignorance or be able to sell to overcharge, which I read is a problem in stores in Beijing. One other problem with tea from China is that there are quite a lot of fakes, something that could be avoided by revealing the source of origin. By the way, if anybody knows a good source for exclusive and well documented Chinese tea, please let me know.

/Max
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Re: Source of origin

Postby Chip » May 19th, '10, 11:28

I can certainly understand arguments both ways ... a vendor needs to protect themselves and their sources while Joe Consumer is expected to simply blindly trust when it is their money and health at risk. This is exasperated by all the shananigans in China.

But to be real, we do not have a clue where 99% of the food we consume is sourced.
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Re: Source of origin

Postby gingkoseto » May 19th, '10, 18:36

By source, do you mean the specific manufacturer or producing region? I believe Teaspring as well as any other vendor would be glad to release the producing region. As for manufacturer, when it's a brandname, Teaspring has quite clear information about the brand on their website as far as I can see. But if it's a small manufacturer (since most prestigious Chinese tea products are from small or even family manufacturers), say, Mr. Zhang San in East Village :D then I guess most vendors wouldn't release the information. Besides, it doesn't seem like some useful information to the consumer anyway :wink:
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Re: Source of origin

Postby maxtillberg » May 20th, '10, 02:59

I want to know as much as possible about the tea I drink and to me, the two most important aspects are who made it and when it was made. The producing region is interesting but usually it does not say much. For example a tea from Anxi, Wuyi or Huang Shan can be of any quality since there are thousends of producers (800 000 persons works in the tea industry in Anxi) and there is no guarantee that the vendor will use the same producer from year to year.

I can understand that a vendor does not want to reveal a small scale producer but a larger industry would not be a problem. It could also be possible to give away much more information about the producer and the tea without actually reveal the name and address, an example of this is HOJOs page about Taiping Houkui http://hojotea.com/item_e/g07e.htm . By the way there are a few vendors that reveal there producers for example Jing Tea, Seven Cups, Postcard Teas and dao tea inc.

About knowing that Mr. Zhang San in East Village made my tea. Well it is useful information to me since it enhances the drinking experience. The best tea I ever tried was the one I bought in China and it was not the quality that made it that good but the whole experience. This is something I think the vendors should try to recreate (misty mountains, lush bushes and small farmers producing great tea by hand) and not just dry leaves in bags.

/Max
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Re: Source of origin

Postby gingkoseto » May 20th, '10, 14:33

Wow the Houkui page on Hojo has really great introduction on history and processing!

I've seen other discussions before, among sellers, among buyers or between the two groups about how much seller should and can release source information. It's actually a very interesting topic!

Due to the nature of tea production in China, locating the source can be very different from naming a wholesaler or a factory. I once heard from a small seller in China that they basically follow the footprints of a tea guru and buy from families that the guru buy from. Therefore their tea has same or similar quality. But of course the guru can sell tea a lot more expensive. I think it's a very interesting business strategy. But as IPT pointed out there are many non-monetary costs involved in sourcing good teas. So not every seller can easily know where the guru got his tea. The specific small seller must have either physically follow the guru into various villages, or probably there is some special relationship (like, his mentor's mentor is an uncle of the guru).
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Re: Source of origin

Postby chittychat » May 21st, '10, 22:55

Why would we want to be so particular on tea when on most everything we consume basically no producer is mentioned or known. From which battery-egg-laying-machine-hen does the egg come from? Who produced that pork chop? :?: :?: One can go on and on.
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Re: Source of origin

Postby debunix » May 22nd, '10, 00:20

chittychat wrote:Why would we want to be so particular on tea when on most everything we consume basically no producer is mentioned or known. From which battery-egg-laying-machine-hen does the egg come from? Who produced that pork chop? :?: :?: One can go on and on.


Because we're drinking tea in a relatively pure, unadulterated form--at least, for unflavored teas, and those we drink without milk or sweetener--and the flavor is as much dependent on the processing as on the starting leaf--the details of growth, harvest, and processing take on a tremendous importance that is very different than, say, the fertilization and irrigation and drying of a kernel of wheat whose destiny is to be ground, separated from the flavorful hull and germ, and mixed with salt and yeast and water, developed into dough, and consumed with cheese or soup or slathered with butter and jam.

There are some variations among different wheats that do influence the flavors of things made from them, especially if used as whole wheat flour or berries, but there's a lot less variation between donuts made from hard white spring wheat vs soft red winter wheat than there is between a fine puerh and a cheap green tea.
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Re: Source of origin

Postby chittychat » May 22nd, '10, 02:55

Very well said. :!: It is just as with wine. As for me as long as I know what tea I am drinking, that is the origin and I like it I could not care who was the peasant who grew it or that tea master magician to whom I bow my head and unfortunately neither one I will ever meet. Pity you can't try the eggs from my own happy, free roaming chicken. :wink:
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Re: Source of origin

Postby debunix » May 22nd, '10, 04:11

chittychat wrote:Pity you can't try the eggs from my own happy, free roaming chicken. :wink:


No pity required, because I don't eat eggs. I eat stuff with eggs in it, but not plain eggs, so they'd be wasted on me. Mostly. I did have some fun with eggs from my sister's mother-in-law's hens

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Re: Source of origin

Postby chittychat » May 22nd, '10, 05:34

debunix wrote: because I don't eat eggs. ]


Man what you miss! ---The taste of one of those eggs soft-boiled. Those are crested chicken, mine are bearded. Unfortunately I loose some constantly to a python snake. Since this is a tea forum I will not include a picture of such a deadly entwine. Some sensitive person might just drop its cup of tea. :shock:
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