May 1, 2012

ecastasy of green tea season

"This is crazy!"
When I lived in Beijing, every four years, there would be a "crazy summer" - the summer when FIFA (of the soccer) World Cup happened. During the time, everybody was in sleep deprivation (because usually the World Cup schedule follows that of European audience). Every night was a carnival. The air was sweet. The sidewalks of the city were full of beer parties and large screen TV with live soccer games going on. In weeks, everybody would feel this light dizziness day in and day out (due to sleep deprivation). But everybody was dreamy and happy.

It was quite a phenomenon, especially considering China has never got a passable soccer team!

I thought of those crazy summers because in recent years, the only time when I have the similar dizzy, dreamy, sleep-deprived days are during the "April madness" - the green tea harvest season! Most of the green teas that I buy each year are small-production teas, which would be sold out shortly after the harvest. And some of those relatively large-production ones, such as Long Jing (still small production but already much larger than many rare teas), also require frequent attention and contact with the producer - that's the price to pay if you want to buy famous tea directly from farmers for much lower price than in a large-city tea store, yet of much higher quality! And, there is 12-13 hours time difference between Massachusetts and China. I guess that's why everything in the green tea season feels so similar to World Cup season to me!

Usually, my "April madness" starts in mid March, when the weather forecast starts to be important for Long Jing. For Da Fo Long Jing, it's relatively easy - just grab the early harvest and done! For Xi Hu Long Jing, since I can't afford (or don't want to pay for) the earliest harvest, I would check out the price change twice a day and aim at the day that (I guess) has best quality/price ratio. I'm very privileged to have my friends reserving the tea for me every year in recent years. But still I've got to keep in touch with them every day, so to make the purchase decision at the earliest possible time.

Then there are the battles for other first harvest famous green teas. Then there are waves and waves of first harvests of less famous Anhui green teas. Anhui is probably my favorite green tea province. I never know how many various green teas you could get there! In traditional Chinese tea industry, there is an old saying, "Spend you entire life learning about tea, and at the end, don't expect you know all the names of teas." In fact, give me another 30 years, I wouldn't expect myself to know all the names of Anhui teas. There are so many hidden gems.

This year, I actually made a plan for green tea purchase - the first year ever that I had actually made a green tea plan :-p But then there are always some accidental discoveries or good tea with good prices that bumped into me. So I guess, in the future, if I make a plan to buy 10 teas, it would be a relatively accurate estimate that I would end up with 20-30 teas :-p Then I get tea samples from producers and suppliers. Many of those teas would be unknown to me, and (fortunately? unfortunately?) many of them would be already sold out by the time I taste the sample. Then there would be such resolutions, "Next year I'm sooo getting this tea!"

Then there is the annual green tea group purchase that I participate in China. In the group purchase, one would get a dozen or so various new green teas, quite a few of them would be rare or small-production teas that are unknown to me. A micro blog sale I run last year included quite a few teas I obtained from the group purchase. Obviously, the group purchase has been more and more popular over years. In the past, I didn't remember I had to wait in front of my computer at 2:30am to sign up. But this is what I had to do this year. Again, there was the deja vu feeling of World Cup summers! The online sign-up started in the afternoon of Chinese time. Within 10 minutes after the sign-up program was opened, all of the 100 orders were taken - which means those of my peer green tea drinkers in China weren't doing any work under the noses of their bosses in an afternoon of a Friday :-p I managed to sign up in the second minute and there were already more than 2 dozen people signing up before me! So I know how it feels when you have to compete against people of the most populated country for green tea :-D

If the "April madness" sounds a little crazy, I'm just glad that I'm not the only one :-) There are many, many green tea drinkers who are as crazy, or even crazier!


SimpliciTEA said...

This TOTALLY cracked me up: "'Next year I'm sooo getting this tea!'"

I like your description of how the green tea craziness reminds you of the world cup fever you had previously experienced. And waiting up until 2:30 AM to be one of the first 100 signed up on the website in China? And the 100 being fulfilled in 10 minutes? Sheesh. THAT IS WILD!

I just read your "A micro blog sale" post. Wow. If you decide to sell anything from this years purchase, (I hesitate to write this, as it seems the obsession for me never ends, but) I would be interested in buying some. Ah well, its just money anyway, right? :p

Gingko said...

Yeah, that's crazy. No wonder gongfu tea is banned in a lot of offices in China. All these people would drink tea, buy tea and browse tea forums during working hours :-p