Everyone who understands the Chinese tea market know that there’s “traditional tea” and then there is the truly traditional tea, especially for Tie Guan Yin. Truly traditional Tie Guan Yin has many differences from the modern production method. A giant wok fry has become a tumbling machine, outside fermentation in now done in an air conditioned room, and the teas are now rolled by machine instead of by foot. (The ball of tea is too big and heavy to roll simply with your hand). While most of these processes have made the lives of the farmers easier, increased yield and standardized quality levels, they have also led to analmost over standarization. From village to village almost all the teas taste basically the same. There are slight differences in each, but once one in my two years in china have I found a Tie Guan Yin that really stands out.

Because of this I want to commision some tea farmers to make Tie Guan Yin in a way that will really change the flavor, hopefully for the better. I reached out to a tea maker whose teas already stand out a little from the pack. I reached out to him and asked if he could foot roll the Tie Guan Yin. The conversation below conspired.

What I want people to take from this conversation is the hesitancy to make more traditional tea. It was hard for me to get him to take the request seriously, and he always tried to bring it back to the more commonly standardized method. The reason for all of this is what he states, price. Right now Tie Guan Yin is selling for a very low price compared to other teas. (Normal Tie Guan Yins usually max out at about 800 rmb per pound, while 800 rmb per pound will get you medium level Yan Cha). Tea making is a business and these farmers have families.

I hope you find this conversation an interesting insight into the lives and mindsets of the farmers. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Side note: he still hasn’t gotten back to me. (thought he is very busy now)

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