While we are all facing the shock and unprecedented times related to the pandemic of Covid-19, we wanted to send out our thoughts to you and your family and wish each of you safety and well-being. We’d also wanted to update you on how we are addressing the pandemic as well as the 2020 spring harvest in China.
Our Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic
At Meimei Fine Teas, we are proud to take responsibility for sourcing high quality naturally grown teas to ensure our customers have a great tea experience, and your health and enjoyment of our teas are our top priority.
- We have been closely following the outbreak in China since January and have communicated with our farmers and producers regularly. Per my contacts in China, they are safe and healthy, and things there have been mostly back to normal in recent weeks.
- We have always taken controlled sanitary measures with our inventory and when fulfilling your orders. We wear protective clothing, such as smocks, masks and gloves while on the job and will continue to do so.
- We have been practicing social distancing and increased cleaning procedures according to CDC and in accordance with WHO recommendations.
- We will continue to buy our regular quality teas for the 2020 harvest from our established producers. As some of you may know, I have been going on tea sourcing trips annually since 2014 and would typically spend a couple of months during the harvest season to monitor and secure the desired crop of high-quality tea. Due to the outbreak and the cessation of flights between US and China, I have delayed my travel plans for this year's spring sourcing trip. If you are interested in our sourcing philosophy, please click below to read our blogs.
- As the logistics and supply chain undergo an interruption and activities slow, we will do our best to navigate through. We will make announcements when new teas arrive, most likely in May or June. Just a friendly reminder, unlike some international tea retailers shipping from China, we are a US-based, home-grown business. We ship directly from Virginia, and you will receive your orders quickly.
The 2020 Spring Harvest is Under Way
During China's outbreak of the virus, the tea regions in even the remotest villages were locked down and no cases have been reported in the tea areas where we source our teas. As far as I know, the tea villages are still very protected, and in some areas outsiders need to have a “green pass” (government approved virus-free status) in order to enter into the tea villages. However, out of an abundance of caution, we currently have no plans to source Enshi Jade Dew green tea for the 2020 spring harvest since this tea is from Hubei province, even though it is in rural high mountain areas. We will continue observing the situation, and we may source a small quantity of this tea when the situation clears up, in order to support the tea farmers affected by the outbreak.
We are happy to know that some tea regions have already started harvesting. Here are a few for your reference. For our popular dragon well green tea produced outside of Hangzhou, batches of #43 Dragon well (the most common and widespread varietal) have already been produced. We only source the local varietal Tu Cha or Qunti Zhong which is at higher elevation and yields better flavor, though currently about two weeks behind.
In Fuding county where our Fuding white tea comes from, the first batches of Silver Needles have already been processed (see the picture below).
The Puerh tea regions in Yunnan province are having another year of drought, and the tea leaves in the high mountain area where our ancient tree puerh tea comes from are struggling to sprout, resulting in about a 2-3 week delay as compared to plantation puerh teas (please see picture below). Just so you know, we don't source plantation puerh teas.
As a premium specialty tea retailer, we will continue to make our best effort to source the highest quality Chinese tea, and to meet and exceed your expectations, even during these challenging times. Tea is our passion and we continue to invest in tea and the lifestyle we love so much.
If you have any concerns or questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will make it through this and the best yet to come! Hope you all stay healthy and safe!
Founder, Meimei Fine Teas
Green tea’s popularity has been on the rise for many years and with good reason. Not only does a properly brewed high quality green tea taste great, but many studies have indicated that it possesses many compelling benefits for maintaining good health.
That said, let's review a few of the commonly asked questions we receive from our customers regarding green tea:
1. Some people say that there is no difference between some cheaper green teas on the market and the more expensive ones. Why should I pay more?
There are many important factors when selecting a quality green tea, though greatest consideration should be given to where the tea is grown, how it is processed, and most importantly, how the tea is sourced. The purest, highest quality green teas are found in higher elevations, where the need for fertilizers or insecticides is minimal. Also, tea sourced from their original origins ensure that the tea is crafted using the best methods by the most skilled tea masters. And lastly, great, organically grown tea is typically limited in supply and higher priced, and is thus bypassed by the mass-market tea sellers. So, tea that is personally sourced from such tea growers ensures that the cleanest and highest quality green teas find their way to your cup. At MeiMei Fine Teas, our passion drives us to learn from the great tea masters, where we personally sample thousands of different teas in pursuit of the purest and finest.
2. What’s the best way to store green tea?
Since green tea is only minimally oxidized, it is recommended to refrigerate the tea to prolong its flavor. Your tea container is also critical. Ideally, to ensure maximum freshness and flavor, it should be stored in a top quality airtight, light-blocking pouch, such as those that MeiMei Fine Teas provides with all our tea orders. Also, be sure to remove as much air as possible from the pouch prior to storage. A tea tin alone will not preserve the freshness of the tea, unless it contains an inner sealed pouch.
3. Many vendors claim to “buy fresh from the farmers” or that they “personally select the best teas”, so how do I know who to trust when I wish to purchase the best green tea?
Though many vendors make such claims and many legitimately so, as they say, “the proof is in the pudding”. If you do a little bit of research, however, you can make a more educated decision when selecting a vendor. Scan their website’s blogs and product pages for visual evidence of tea trips, sourcing techniques, and awards. It may also be desirable to research the tea itself, i.e. searching for the sensory attributes of a top quality Dragonwell. Of course, the ultimate judge is what you experience from your cup.
At MeiMei Fine Teas, our passion for great tea sends us into the high mountains of China, famous for their pristine landscapes and meticulously crafted teas. Our goal is to spread the word about these great legendary teas, encourage the appreciation of their history and culture, and optimize the enjoyment of these diverse and amazing teas through the instruction of proper tea brewing and storage.
Tea is life, make it great!
Yixing teapots are unique to Chinese gongfu tea culture and are only produced in Yixing city of Jiangshu province. This particular teapot style originated during the Ming dynasty by the famed Gong Chun （供春） potter who created the first famous Gong Chun Yixing teapot using the local Zisha clay.
Zisha, meaning purple clay in Chinese, can enhance the flavor of tea due to its special structure. Because of its practical use and unique ability to enhance tea flavor, as well as its aesthetics, it has been an essential part of Chinese gongfu tea culture, as well as playing an important role in Zen tea, or the Tao of Tea. There are many classic styles in Yixing teapot-making, including the famous “Man Sheng eighteen classic styles”. Shi Piao is one of them. Shi Piao means “stone scoop”in Chinese.
The classic style Shi Piao teapots have a smaller mouth and a big wide bottom, with the main body shaped like a pyramid. It has a straight spout, an arched bridge on the lid, and a triangular-shaped handle. The trapezoid body and the inverted triangle handle wonderfully complete the geometric aesthetics of this piece in perfect harmony, and it is yet practical enough for everyday use and simple appreciation. Due to its wide bottom, Shi Piao is ideal for brewing large loose leaf teas, such as puerh tea or white tea.
The name Shi Piao doesn’t sound like an elegant name, but it was an homage to an ancient Chinese poem, “Three thousand weak waters, only one scoop,” (弱水三千只饮一瓢). It was first named by the most reputable master Gu Jing Zhou who loved this style teapot very much and also modified the shape that is a little different than the Man Sheng Shi Piao from Qing dynasty.
This famous saying was first recorded with a Buddhist story and later became famous after the publication of the China’s most renowned novel “ A Dream of the Red Chamber”, written by Chao Xue Qing in Qing dynasty. Still, this phrase is more often used for expressing one’s love for a unique person or thing.
History: Fuding County in Fujian Province is not just a core-producing area for white tea; it is the place that gave birth to the white tea we know today, beginning in the early 19th century.
Although white tea production is now more widespread, tea connoisseurs everywhere know that white tea hailing from Fuding is superior – there’s just too much tradition behind it, a slow perfection of its cultivation and production. What makes white tea especially attractive is how it can be aged, often resulting in a much more complex tea with incredible depth of flavor.
For this tasting, we chose an aged white tea, the 2013 Fuding White Peony Tea Cake. This tea is a Bai Mu Dan that was harvested in April 2013, sun-dried (not dried with forced air), and aged for three years before being compressed into cakes in 2016. Six years later, it’s clear that we have an incredible gem on our hands.
This is how we conducted our tasting session:
- Method: Gongfu
- Temperature: 190°F (88°C), also suggest to try with 200°F
- Amount of Tea Leaves: 6g, or 7g for standard gongfu tasting
- Length of Infusion: 25-45 seconds
- Number of Infusions: 13
- Time: 75 minutes
Initial Impression: The dry leaves are beautiful to behold, a mélange of green, yellow, brown, and black, like a beautiful camouflage. In the nose, I’m picking up the smell of melons, particularly honeydew and cantaloupe.
First Infusion: The color of the liquor is a pale banana yellow, and I’m picking up a sweet, tart aroma, sort of like a raspberry reduction with a pinch of lemon juice and nutmeg. The flavor reminds me of a summer refresher – a glass of mineral water with some fresh-squeezed lemon and sliced berries. The melon aromatics are noticeable in the pleasant aftertaste.
Second Infusion: The color has darkened slightly, turning a lemon yellow, and the aromatics now smell fruitier, almost reminiscent of nectarine. This cup is without a doubt more fruit-forward than the first infusion, and it’s sweeter in taste as well. I’m picking up sliced plums and raspberries.
Third Infusion: With this infusion, the color of the tea has transitioned to a honey yellow, and I find the fruity aromas persisting. So far, this is the sweetest cup yet. While the aromatics are similar to the second infusion, the flavor has moved away from the taste of cooked berries and more towards Medjool dates, hints of caramel and baked brown sugar.
Fourth Infusion: This liquor is so pretty, appearing butterscotch yellow now. I can now detect the smell of dates, but it’s accompanied by another familiar note, golden raisins. Upon sipping, all I can say is, “Wow!” This is, far and away, the tastiest infusion yet. How to describe the taste? There’s a number of Mediterranean desserts that use almonds, dates, and honey. A popular one is rather simple: slice the date in half, remove the pit, replace with a whole almond, and gently drizzle some honey over it. That’s what this infusion reminds me of. Of particular note, here is the fantastic aftertaste.
Fifth and Sixth Infusions: As I peer into the tasting cup, I admire the depth of the color of this tea. It’s almost orange now, somewhere between marigold and apricot. Breathing in the infused leaves is a form of aromatherapy – it’s so relaxing and fall-appropriate, like a freshly baked apple pie made from golden apples. To no surprise, even the taste is crisp apple sweet with a slightly toasted crust flavor, very much like apple pie. When I close my eyes, I feel like I’m in a kitchen, a pie freshly baked sits on a cooling rack, and its aromas are intermingling with the fresh fall air coming in through the windows.
Seventh and Eighth Infusions: This time, the color of the tea appears slightly diminished. It’s still a deep yellowish-orange, but this is the first sign that the peak of this tea has been reached. Strangely, the aromas seem more like golden raisins again, maybe with a slight grapey quality. As I sip this cup, I’m left somewhat speechless, initially overwhelmed with sweetness. While the 5th and 6th infusions were my favorite, I was definitely not expecting these infusions to be so flavorful.
Ninth and Tenth Infusions: This is officially a pleasant, strange tea. Usually, when tasting a tea, it’s like a flower or onion, each pedal or layer peeled back with every infusion, revealing something new. This tea, however, is a bit different. Beginning with the 8th infusion and persisting through the 9th and 10th, it feels like this tea has come full circle, like it’s going back to the beginning. These infusions very much weirdly remind me of the 2nd and 3rd infusions. I’ve never had a tea circle back around like this.
Eleventh to Thirteenth Infusions: The flavors more or less remain, but with each infusion, they grow just a little weaker. These infusions are still enjoyable, but the texture of the liquor is thinning, the aftertaste is less powerful, and the flavors are more or less the same.
Conclusion: Upon finishing, this tea makes me feel nostalgic and reflective. I can’t help but to see it as a metaphor for life itself. There’s a vibrance present when we’re young, eventually giving way to depth and complexity, before slowly, ultimately turning back on itself. A number of philosophers and poets have reflected on the unity that ties the beginning and the end together, whether it be envisioning ourselves as part of the cyclical nature of being or even seeing death itself as a kind of birth.
There’s little question that this is a special tea. Just the “seasons” it runs through with each infusion is itself a fascinating experience, and the wonderful flavors present in every cup are delightfully delectable. If you’re unfamiliar with aged white teas, this is a great place to start!
Last week, we discussed what to expect when you venture into the exotic territory of pu’erh tasting. Unlike other forms of tea, it is pu’erh that usually has the most impressive endurance, lasting through many infusions. But not only that, it’s the transition, the changes from infusion to infusion that really make these teas special.
To help readers walk through this a little better, we decided to turn theory into reality, offering a guided tour through the tasting of one of our very own pu’erhs, the treasured Lao Man’E Ancient Tree, a raw pu’erh. This particular tea has an outstanding reputation for quality, but as a result of its deserved fame, this has lead to a surge in misleading blends, posing as copycats and fakes. We can assure you that our Lao Man’E is 100% authentic, as it was directly sourced by us.
For the curious, here’s how this tea session unfolded:
- Method: Gongfu
- Session One: 100mL clay teapot and Jian Zhan tea cup
- Session Two: Clay gaiwan
- Teapot: 205°F (96°C)
- Gaiwan: 210°F (99°C)
Amount of Tea Leaves:
- Teapot: 4g
- Gaiwan: 7g
- Length of Infusion: 25-45 seconds
Number of Infusions:
- Teapot: 14
- Gaiwan: 20
- Teapot: 75 minutes
- Gaiwan: 90 minutes
We opted to use two different methods of gongfu brewing, one with a teapot and one with a gaiwan, each using slightly different ratios of tea to water and slightly different temperatures. We elected to do this to learn what kinds of differences one can expect between the two methods.
Initial Impression: The dry leaves are noticeably long, colors ranging from pale green to dark green. Upon smelling, they present with an aroma of indistinguishable stone fruit and sweet honey.
Teapot: Immediately, I can detect a mild, smoky aroma, reminiscent of the smell of orchid flowers. Interestingly enough, this aroma doesn’t quite translate over to the taste where I am instead greeted with something more akin to a sharp woody note, like a cedar, paired with citrus peels. There’s a mild astringency, but it actually makes for quite a pleasant mouthfeel. I can’t quite explain it, but this infusion makes me feel like the color green. I imagine myself plucking a fresh tangerine from a tree, a lengthy bit of stem still attached, and as I inhale it, I taste this tea. When finished, within a minute, there’s a noticeable step up in energy.
Important Gaiwan Differences: The mild smoky aroma we detected with the teapot is fascinatingly different with a gaiwan, reminiscent of a sweet campfire, as if one were toasting marshmallows and baking green apples. In tasting the tea, there’s an obvious floral component that was lacking with the teapot, along the lines of honeysuckle and gardenia, but the star of the show are these delightful tropical flavors, almost like a piña colada.
Teapot: If the first infusion was like inhaling a fresh tangerine, the second infusion is more like biting into a fresh red apple. The astringency is a little more prominent in this cup, but nonetheless, it’s a sensation that still pleases the mouth. I get this feeling while I sip it, a single word comes to mind: fiery. That’s not to suggest that this tea is spicy or hot; it just invokes imagery associated with this word. Strangely, my sense of time begins to become distorted, as if time were dilating, somehow both, internally slow but externally fast.
Important Gaiwan Differences: The pleasant orange peel astringency from the first steeping of the teapot makes its appearance in the second infusion with the gaiwan, and the tropical piña colada flavor begins transitioning over to a more coconut-forward taste. A new floral aromatic also greets the nose. Unmistakably, it’s a jasmine. What’s nice about this infusion is that the texture of the tea is kind of buttery and smooth.
Teapot: With some subtle floral notes in the background, the fresh apple flavor from the previous infusion has given way to something a little more exciting. Imagine taking the apple peels, sprinkling them with cinnamon, and baking them; that’s what this cup tastes like. My mood has shifted with each infusion to light and airy, care-free, and I observe that my mind wants to both drift but also be empty, quickly pushing out any thoughts that arise, as if it is enjoying this ideational vacuum.
Important Gaiwan Differences: By the time you reach the third infusion, it is readily apparent that the gaiwan just brings out so many more floral notes than the teapot, adding a whole new dimension to this tea. In this infusion, we felt as though the jasmine remained, but it was also complemented by the lovely fragrance of blooming lilacs. This infusion is starting to become noticeably sweeter as well, like a spring orange blossom honey.
Teapot: The pu’erh is becoming noticeably fruitier. There’s a sweetness on the literal tip of the tongue that’s actually quite hard to pinpoint and describe. The flavor of apple peel is still present, but I’m now detecting a complement with wild blueberries. As I reach the bottom of the cup, I feel campfire, not the smokiness of a Lapsang but the feeling of campfire.
Important Gaiwan Differences: The jasmine aroma has become predominant, but amazingly, yet another floral aroma emerged: rose petals. Perhaps interesting, the nuttiness present in the first and second infusions has transformed into more of an almond-like taste.
Fifth and Sixth Infusions:
Teapot: This tea has officially burst into a fruity bouquet. If you take apple slices and wild blueberries, mix them with other types of berries and melon cubes, and then garnish the resulting fruit salad with a little bit of mint leaf, you’ve approached what these infusions now taste like. It’s astonishing how much flavor there can be so late in the process.
Important Gaiwan Differences: It’s hard to believe that this method of brewing really accentuates the floral qualities of this tea far more than the teapot. By the time you reach these infusions, the jasmine aroma remains strong alongside smoky orchid notes. These qualities remain fairly strong up through the eleventh infusion.
Seventh and Eighth Infusions:
Teapot: The texture of this tea has changed, and while you would expect this to signal that the tea is getting weaker, on the contrary, the texture is actually getting thicker. The liquor now has a melted butter texture to it, coating the mouth easily during each sip, leaving one feeling relaxed and emotionally warm. There are more indistinguishable floral notes in these infusions, accompanied by a honey-like sweetness reminiscent of the aroma from the dry leaves.
Teapot: Things get a little bizarre here. If you were to somehow take all of the flavors from all of the prior infusions and blended them together, that’s what this cup tastes like. It’s just a medley of diverse flavors, leading to the most complex taste of this tea yet.
Teapot: It seems that the ninth infusion was the grand finale. There’s still much to offer from this tea, as it’s beginning to taste slightly herbaceous, but the texture is at this point just starting to get thinner. Also, the complexity from the previous infusion is absent.
Important Gaiwan Differences: What makes the gaiwan especially nice for brewing this tea is that it seems to not only bring out the floral qualities of the tea more, but it does so for a longer period of time. Whereas the best infusions for the teapot seemed to occur between steepings five through eight, with the gaiwan, we’re comfortably into the tenth infusion with no sign of slowing down.
Eleventh to Fourteenth Infusions:
Teapot: With each and every infusion from here on out, the tea predictably gets thinner and the flavors weaker. It would be a mistake to dismiss these infusions altogether, as they’re still very much enjoyable, but they don’t compare to the previous infusions. Interestingly, there’s a fresh soybean flavor that has greeted the senses in these final cups.
Important Gaiwan Differences: You don’t really notice anything like this until the eighteenth infusion, and so you get much better stamina with it.
Conclusion: Wow! There’s no question that pu’erhs demand patience.
The teapot was nice insofar as it brought forward more of the fruity characteristics of this tea, but there’s little question that the gaiwan adds a whole new dimension since it elicits distinct and noticeable floral notes. These added floral notes make for an experience that the teapot is just lacking.
Similarly, with the teapot, far and away, the best infusions were throughout the middle of the tasting, from steeping five through eight, but with the gaiwan, this tea was able to maintain its strength well into its fourteenth infusion.
One important lesson here is that while you’ll still have a great tea if you choose to brew with the teapot, you’ll have an all-around even better experience using a gaiwan. It’s eye-opening what a difference a simple change in instruments can make.
A good secondary lesson, however, is that in both cases, if we would’ve tossed these leaves after just a few infusions, we would’ve sadly missed out on these experiences. At a minimum, therefore, it’s important to ensure that you’re reaching those later stages of your pu’erh, and this tea in particular is such a joy to continue to drink, suitable for an engaging conversation with a thoughtful companion.
Even though this tasting session focuses specifically on Lao Man’E, it’s important to remember that every pu’erh has treasures like this to offer when given time and attention. It’s easy to see why this tea not only has such a strong reputation, but also why more and more tea drinkers are drawn to the uniqueness of pu’erh tea in general.
Pu’erhs are one of the most complex kinds of teas out there, and with that complexity comes tremendous joy that tea drinkers can expect over a testing session.
Unfortunately, many novice tea drinkers make the mistake of assuming their pu’erhs should be treated like all their other teas – steeped somewhere between one and four times. If you’re one of these tea drinkers, then you might just be missing out on some of the best flavors of your pu’erhs.
What do we mean?
Think of your dried pu’erh leaves as a kind of flower bud, such as a lotus. With enough care and water, the bud slowly begins to blossom open and bloom, revealing its enchanting colors and aromas. Like the lotus bud, every infusion of your pu’erh opens it up until it, too, eventually blooms with incredible flavor before it begins to slowly wilt away.
To help you better understand this idea, we want to introduce you to the four stages of pu’erh.
Stage One: The Opening
It may be tempting to associate this stage with the very first infusion, but pu’erh is a little different from other kinds of tea. While this initial stage begins with the 1st infusion, it usually lasts up through the 3rd or even 4th steeping, as it takes several full infusions for your pu’erh leaves to fully open and wake up.
Structurally, the pu’erh during this stage tends to have more floral notes, a thinner texture, and the color of the liquor is a little subdued. You should begin to notice, however, that the flavor from the first to the third infusion transitions from more intense floral aromatics with a faint hint of sweetness similar to a nectar.
Stage Two: The Bloom
If you persist with steeping your pu’erh beyond three infusions, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best flavors and aromas that your tea has to offer. The second stage, which tends to last from the 4th to the 7th infusion, marks a significant departure from the initial steeping.
During this stage, the texture of the pu’erh becomes a little thicker, almost brothy, and the color really begins to glow. With some of the good pu’erh teas, you might even discover that the floral notes are now complemented by a noticeable honey-like sweetness as well as the emergence of some rich, fruity aromas.
Although the flavors are unquestionably outstanding, the real magic of this stage might belong to the sensations. It’s these infusions that lead more experienced tasters to speak of a tea possessing the warmth of a cooking spice or creating some kind of pleasant vapor in the back of the throat. This is the best time to really breathe into your teas.
Stage Three: The Maturation
As the pu’erh continues to change with each steeping, you’ll notice the liquor take on an increasingly dark intensity. If the second stage marked the ascent to the peak, this third stage is just on the other side, beginning the descent but still offering an incredible view. This is when your tea has reached full maturity, and this character will continue up through around the 10th -12th infusion.
At this stage, the floral aromatics will begin fading away, leaving behind a bouquet of spices, fruits, and dark honey. Although lacking in the complexity of the second stage, the tea will still possess a nice, rounded taste with a full texture, almost dessert-like.
Stage Four: The Twilight
It’s important to remember that every tea has a different amount of stamina, and so will enter into the fourth stage earlier than others, beginning as early as the 10th infusion. No matter when it starts, you can identify this stage by the fact that your tea’s characteristics will finally begin to wane – the color lightens, the texture thins, the aromatics dwindle, and the flavors fade. Fortunately, this isn’t something that happens immediately; rather, this is a gradual process that many still find quite delightful, if even worthy of deep reflection and meditation on life.
The virtues of the tea at this stage is that you’ll find the texture quite smooth, the tea itself agreeable to nearly any palate. While the flavors still remain in a somewhat diminished state, it’s here where you may finally begin to taste a transition to more vegetal notes, like sugar-snap peas or cruciferous greens.
Some teas during this stage quickly run out of stamina, lasting maybe only a few infusions; others can surprise, carrying onward just north of the 20th infusion. Discovering exactly when your tea reaches that point can prove to be a rewarding journey in and of itself, one that still promises plenty of noteworthy, enjoyable sips.
If you never realized just how far a pu’erh can take you before today, we hope this topic encourages you to explore some new tasting territory.
Since the Boston Tea Party and the Revolutionary War, there has never been a tariff on tea in the United States… until now.
The Importance of China to the US Specialty Tea Market
It’s no secret that China is the world’s largest exporter of tea, and while tariffs are traditionally used to promote and protect domestic industry, tea is not exactly the kind of commodity that can be easily manufactured in the United States.
In fact, just last year, the US International Trade Commission revealed that China was the largest exporter of tea to the United States, even ahead of countries such as Japan and India, accounting for almost 1/5th of all tea imported to the US.
While 20% is already a staggering percentage, in reality, these numbers are actually even higher when tea is taken in the strict sense of camellia sinensis, not rooibos, herbals, and mate. For its accounting, the US ITC lumps all of these types together under the umbrella term “tea,” distorting the picture of China’s contribution to the US tea market.
Ultimately, the truth is that without Chinese tea, there simply is no way to accommodate the overall rising consumer demand in the states with domestic tea alone, let alone the demand for natural, hand-crafted, artisanal, high-quality specialty tea. As tea enthusiasts, we know how much the truly special teas of China — the green, black, oolong, pu-erh, and white teas; the renowned varietals such as Dragonwell green tea, Phoenix Dan Cong oolong, Wuyi Shui Xian, etc. — how much these teas are inimitable, aromas and flavors unable to be replaced.
What Exactly is the Problem?
Though rumors of an impending tariff on tea imports initially started as concerns within the industry, unfortunately, as of September 1st, 2019, these proposed changes have gone into effect – a 15% import tax has officially been levied on all teas imported from China.
There are some who might think that since the United States is the 3rd largest importer of Chinese tea (behind Russia and Pakistan), this could hurt the Chinese tea market as well, but this is wishful thinking. It is a fact that demand for tea in China and Europe has never been higher, and so any deficits from a taxed US market can easily be made up for elsewhere. So tea tariffs aren't going to do anything to China. Instead, all it does is hurting the US tea drinkers.
The Effects on the US Specialty Tea Market
Larger companies are unlikely to be affected much. So much of the tea found in inexpensive tea bags is purchased in bulk, coming at a discount due to economies of scale. A lot of this tea, also, isn’t purchased from China, instead made of cheap tea blends from inferior growing regions elsewhere in the world.
Besides large companies, in the US specialty tea market, there are three major groups of players: the US-based companies, the China-based individuals and companies (including some US tea companies operates in China), and pirates / counterfeiters. These latter two create websites geared towards US consumers, (often sell low quality teas,) and when an order is processed, they use their connections to ship directly from China, giving them a distinct advantage over US-based companies that follow the law. How these pirates and China-based tea companies manage to sell to the US market is another complicated issue. The short of it is that behind the scenes, they manage to operate at our own expense, and yet we can’t do anything about it.
Meanwhile, when political turmoil creates these kinds of economic consequences, it is the small- to mid-sized, US-based tea companies, especially those who import unique, artisanal teas from China like us, that will be affected the most.
Managing the Cost of Your Cup
The good news is that because much of this tea has already been sourced and imported for 2019, these new tea tariffs are unlikely to affect much just yet, but costs will surely rise in 2020. Unfortunately, this means that tea companies such as ourselves will need to begin thinking considerably about how to mitigate these costs since high quality specialty tea already has high price tag yet a low profit margin.
At MeiMei Fine Teas, profit has always been secondary to our mission: to make some of the world’s best teas available to you. You may not have realized it, but just last year, for instance, an import tax was levied on aluminum, affecting the purchasing price of our tea bags. But we were able to manage the cost.
In this case, we can assure you that we will be doing everything we can to manage the rising costs from these tea tariffs in 2020, and while we may be able to find a way to absorb some of the additional cost, at this time we cannot guarantee that we will be able to absorb all of the additional cost.
In the interest of transparency, we want you to be aware of some of the hidden economics and politics behind your cup, geopolitical factors that might inevitably raise prices. Our intention is certainly not to entice you to stock up on your favorite teas, but considering that some of these teas make excellent candidates for long-term storage, tasting better as they age – most notably pu’erh teas, white teas, and some oolongs – it may not be a bad idea to plan ahead by purchasing now and storing them for future consumption.