The Tea Market Experience – March 2019Bitterleaf
The Tea Market Experience is a non-subscription tea club that offers unique, interesting and possibly dubiously labelled teas, bringing you as close as possible to the tea markets of Yunnan without having to hop on a plane.
Not exactly a tea market-type of store, Bolian is actually a large company that owns their own trees and operates a sort of spa and retreat in scenic Jingmai. While this type of tea-tourism attracts people from all over China to the tropical side of Yunnan, they also employ a slightly different strategy in marketing their retail teas to an emerging audience.
At first glance, the store seems similar to many other “higher end” tea shops, dressing their employees in Yunnan minority costumes, putting their teas in elaborate packages and playing a well-edited video of people processing tea on loop. But none of that is necessarily a reason to discredit or dismiss a tea – regardless of how much attention is spent on the periphery features.
Putting their background in wine to use and applying a scientific and somewhat experimental approach, Bolian has produced several teas that highlight the impact that storage has on puer, even if just a few years. The result is a pair of very unique teas that aim appeal to a younger crowd with the money to spend on good tea.
Of course we asked the employee working at the store a few questions while trying the teas:
How long have you been doing tea?
[Bolian] has been operating since 1995.
Where does your material come from
They own their own gardens of 40 year or younger trees, which is used for the base material. Gushu material is purchased from the villages.
Who do you mainly sell to?
Most customers are domestic, young professionals.
What makes a good tea? (Cue the sales pitch:)
There are three things. One is environment, the other is that it’s healthy and the third is that the tea has no off-tastes.
What kind of tea do you think fits foreign drinkers’ tastes?
Jingmai teas should be good for them, or for beginners with puer. Jingmai black tea is also good compared to other areas since it has both sweetness and fragrance.
What advice would you give a western tea drinker?
Take your time, don’t rush things. Drink lots of tea and learn as you go.