Il mondo del tè è un mondo da noi occidentali lontano..si sa. E questo spesso non ci fa avere coscienza di ciò che stiamo bevendo, della sua provenienza e del lavoro che c’è dietro.
Beh dietro una tazza di buon tè (parlo di tè di qualità) c’è sempre una famiglia, delle persone o un’azienda, piccola o grande, che fanno del tè la propria vita, dipendono da lui per economia e cultura.
Mi sembra il giusto momento di ricordare una cosa del genere perchè proprio in questo mese si sta procedendo al primo raccolto annuale di tè verde in molte provincie della Cina. Con una implementazione enorme della forza lavoro locale…

Noi lo aspettiamo per giugno.

E comunque questo articolo di un produttore di Long jing mi sembra molto suggestivo e fa ben capire come questa raccolta avvenga, le aspettative, l’essere dipendente dal tempo e dalla sua clemenza. Anche i coltivatori di tè sono agricoltori!

     Our 2012 Long Jing harvest started on March 29. It was mainly because according to the weather forecast, there would be heavy rain and temperature would drop. My cautious parents were worried that there would be disastrous weather to ruin the new leaves. Therefore, our first harvest was carried out on March 29, with 2 liang (100g, or 3.4 oz.) of tea produced.(*) The real start of formal harvest was on March 31. In the days that followed, my whole family and 20 tea harvest workers worked from 5:30am to 6pm every day and all day in the tea field, exhausted day in and day out.(**)

          But this is a bad year for Long Jing farmers. In a regular year, the harvest would end after Gu Yu till around April 25. (***) But this year, the harvest had to end on April 15, as there was already no good tea leaves to pick off. My parents worked hard for a whole year with great expectations on the harvest season, but are poorly rewarded by the yields of tea. They can do nothing but working hard on the tea fields for another year, and hoping the next year would be better. They belong to the most underrepresented group of our society.


          What’s really outrageous is, the news media are ridiculously enthusiastic about the speculation of ¥180,000 per jin (1 jin is about 1.1 pound, this price is equivalent to $26,000 per pound) Long Jing.(****) The nonsense news reports drove away a lot of our clients, as people don’t believe they could afford authentic Long Jing anymore. When we were selling good tea of reasonable prices to some clients, we had to make extra effort to convince them over and over that the tea was authentic, because all they had heard from the media was authentic Long Jing was supposed to be many times more expensive…
_______________________________________

* This is not paranoia, as it happens from time to time tea leaves are ruined by disastrous weather right before harvest. However, such concern of weather conditions sometimes would cause tea harvest to be earlier than its “natural time”.

** Many tea harvest workers are from surrounding counties and provinces. It’s estimated that this year, the typical average cost of hiring each migrating tea worker is about $16-20 per day, and the labor cost is probably one of the largest expenses in Long Jing cultivation. According to some Long Jing Village farmers, a tea worker typically can harvest 1 – 6 pounds of fresh tea leaves per day (1 pound when it’s first day harvest, and 6 pounds when it’s near the end of the harvest season and tea leaves are larger). About 4 pounds fresh leaves are used to make into 1 pound of final product of Long Jing. The pan-frying of the tea is usually done by the one or a few skillful family members (usually men). The tea is usually fully manually processed when harvest is low earlier in the season, and semi-manually processed when harvest is high later in the season.

*** Traditionally, lower grade tea was also produced in summer and autumn. But in recent years, summer and autumn harvests are no longer carried out because the income of low grade tea cannot justify labor costs.

**** The ¥180,000 per jin price was from a charity auction on first day harvest Long Jing, run by a large tea company before the harvest started. This is not the fist time a super high auction price of a tea is created. I don’t know what’s behind this one, but I suspect many of such charity or commercial auctions mainly serve for advertising purposes and intend to manipulate public attention. Just my cynical thought… This is not the first time either, that news media are obsessive about reporting the high auction price of a famous tea (probably many of you have heard of auction prices of Da Hong Pao and other teas before). Often in their reports, the media omit the fact that prices of such charity auctions mean to be symbolic (as the money is supposed to be donated for charity causes) and have nothing to do with market prices. Therefore such news reports could be very misleading but continue to draw broad public attention.

***** Long Jing Village is dominated by Jiu Keng Group cultivar, the traditional cultivar of Long Jing. The above-mentioned harvest dates are all about this cultivar. In Haongzhou region, harvest of Long Jing #43 cultivar started and ended earlier than Jiu Keng Group cultivar.

****** This late start and rapid progress of warm temperature affected harvest of quite a few green teas this year. I will write about a few other teas later.