Last year, Jay and I were awarded the grand prize of $25,000 in the first annual Movers and Changers business plan competition sponsored by mtvU and the NYSE for our “One Tea, One Tree” concept. For every tea product we sell, we will plant a tree in our local wetlands, here in New Orleans. As social entrepreneurs, we believe tea can change the world by bringing health to the body and the planet.
That winter, Jay and I spent a month in China to explore the market as well as the country’s tea culture. Jay was raised in Fujian Province, in which people have been growing and drinking tea for thousands of years. We began our journey in Beijing with Mr. Wu, the Director of the China Tea Association. At our first meeting, Mr. Wu took us to a tea house to let us taste “real” tea. He also taught us how to brew correctly, as there is more to it than just adding hot water. We learned that when brewing tea, the water temperature should be around 70 degrees Celsius, not boiling. Water that is too hot causes tea to taste bitter.
From Beijing, we made our way down to Fujian by train, which took 19 hours. There we visited several tea-producing cities, including Fuding, Wuyi Shang, Shunchang, and Sha Xian. The tea farms in Wuyi Shang were by far the most beautiful we encountered. Farmers there grow their tea in the mountains where the water is freshest. Eventually, we made our way to Xiamen – the island that Jay grew up on – to meet with local tea merchants.
There were a few days during which we found it difficult to sleep after hours of drinking tea. It is surprising how much energy tea gives you without any crash. Everywhere we went, we were invited to share in the ancient culture of tea drinking. We drank with everyone from modern tea merchants to Jay’s family to Buddhist Monks. All shared a deep respect and love of tea.
Currently, we are perfecting our own tea blend, which combines Chinese tea and organic dried fruits – an East-meets-West blend that we are very excited about. Of course, we will also be importing organic teas, with a focus on Chinese white teas – a market we feel is underserved in the West.