Bitterleaf is primarily two individuals: Coomi Xuan Liu (the person who takes pictures, makes things look pretty, and so much more) and Jonah Snyder (the one you’ll talk to if you email or message us). We’re based out of Coomi’s hometown of Kunming, Yunnan, China.
Coming from creative backgrounds and former careers in arts and design, Bitterleaf’s direction is informed by what we want to see and create as opposed to simply running another tea shop. Our appreciation of tea spans across the process of sourcing, preparing, tasting, and feeling. For us, tea is not just a drink, but a lifestyle and process that we find really damn relaxing. However, we prefer not to be burdened by dogmatic or rigid views on tea. We simply hope to enhance others’ experience in any way possible.
Although we tend to become restless from time to time, tea is a constant for us. We strive to do things our own way and differently than those around us, but there are also values that we consistently adhere to.
Our Teas and Teaware:
The teas and teaware we feature are the same that we drink and use on a daily basis. Our biggest focus is on the tea and teaware in our backyard, which is primarily puer and other other Yunnan teas, and Jianshui zitao pottery. We also have a thing for pottery from Jingdezhen though, and have spent considerable effort developing strong relationships with artists there.
In addition to being teas that we have personal attachment to, we try to be as transparent as possible about the source and background of our teas. We rely heavily on trusted and long standing sources and farmers to ensure high quality, sourcing directly from the tea mountains each season. Our priority is to work with farmers who exhibit responsible farming methods, care about their crops, and exhibit a high level of processing. Any other relevant information about a tea’s origin or storage is included in its product listing. In the case of older factory cakes, the original packaging will be left in tact underneath whenever possible. We intend to be as direct as possible in our descriptions and with the information we provide, while keeping confusing jargon and BS to a minimum.
For 2017 we selected a handful of teas for lab testing of 191 of the most common pesticide residues to be sure. All of our tested teas are guaranteed to be below the maximum residue limit (MRL) according to the European Commission guidelines, and in several cases with no detectable amounts at all. Please be aware that this is not an exhaustive test of all possible pesticides or the 400+ required for import into the EU.
Like our teas, our teaware is also held to a high standard of quality. We focus largely on Jianashui zitao purple clay teaware, and unique pieces from the ceramics capital of China, Jingdezhen. We spend a lot of time making tea, and this process is much more enjoyable when there are pretty things to look at that also work well. We want you to be able to experience the same.
Every single piece of teaware that is sold through Bitterleaf is personally inspected and tested for cosmetic and functional defects. Any items that do not thoroughly pass our own standards are not sold. Please note that for certain pieces, minor and discreet imperfections may exist. In all cases these are generally unnoticeable, but if you wish to see an example of what we consider a passable imperfection, please contact us.
We make every effort to accurately represent each piece of teaware in our shop, both in terms of colour and shape. If we receive a new batch of wares that is significantly different in colour or design (a common occurrence with ceramics), we will update the product pictures to accurately reflect this and make a note. We also note that some pieces, especially those that are handmade, can exhibit slight variations in colour and glaze. In less extreme cases this may not be shown in the photos.
As a result of our selection process and criteria for quality, many pieces may only be available in limited quantity. We also re-evaluate pieces from time to time and may decide to restock using a higher quality, which can be reflected in the price. We recommend checking back regularly, but if you have a request, feel free to let us know.