cupping teaTi Kuan Yin tea is very special.  For most teas, the best season is spring – but not for Ti Kuan Yin, for which every gold medal awarded it has come from an autumn harvest.  If you plan to purchase some Ti Kuan Yin, now is the time, but do keep in mind these suggestions:

1.  In China, there are three options for buying Ti Kuan Yin:

  • Buy from farmers or wholesalers only.  Eighty percent of merchants choose this option because it is more efficient and trouble-free, but your supply and quality may not be as stable.
  • Buy from contract-signed farmers.  They will give you a good offer, but you’ll need to give them some guidance in terms of what you are looking for.
  • Buy from tea gardens run by large companies, which may also deal with contract-signed farmers as well as individual farmers.

Of these three options, it is best to go with the first – buying directly from farmers or wholesalers.  This is because they usually own the best tea gardens and have the best tea-processing masters.

2.  Keep your eyes on your cash.  Here all deals are cash based and may involve millions, so be safe!

3.  Only say “Yes” to a particular tea if you really mean it.  Don’t say “Yes” and then not buy.

4.  Normally, there are tea marketplaces in every town.  You can rent a storefront and the farmers will come to you at any time of day or night.  You just need to cup.  In fact, you may have to drink hundreds of cups of tea, so be sure you do so on a full stomach.

5.  The tea in GanDe is very famous and therefore the prices tend to be higher than those in other towns.  Farmers from other towns may bring their tea to sell in GanDe, so be careful and keep your eyes open to be sure you get what you pay for.

midnight tea6.  For the best Ti Kuan Yin tea, you’ll need to visit the farmer’s home at midnight.  In addition, bring a book to keep track of the teas you sample.

7.  You should have a bird-eye view of every mountain in Anxi County.  There are actually two parts of Anxi County – Inner Anxi and Outer Anxi.  Normally, Inner Anxi has the better tea.  Inner Anxi includes the following towns: XiangHua, XiPing, HuQiu, LongJuan, LuTian, ChangKeng, GanDe, JianDou, LanTian, FuTian, and TaoZhou, whereas Outer Anxi includes FengCheng, ChengXiang, SanNei, KuiDou, PengLai, JinGu, HuShang, BaiLai, ShangQing, GuanQiao, and LongMen.

8.  Every town features tea with its own unique character.  Tea from GanDe is famous for its strong fragrance, its very green color, its light taste, and its slight acidity, whereas XiangHua tea is known for its super long-lasting sweetness.  Both GanDe and XiangHua teas are fermented using air conditioners, but in XiPing, from which Ti Kuan Yin originates, air conditioners are not used.  Tea from XiPing has a light fragrance and a nice taste.  Air conditioners are also used in JianDou, which produces tea with a good balance between fragrance and taste, and at a lower price, which I like.  Finally, there is a strange village in XiangHua called XiangDong.  All of its tea is very expensive, regardless of its quality, because the government frequently buys tea from XiangDong.  Merchants in XiangDong don’t worry if they can’t sell their teas out.

Purchasing tea is very tiring work, but just be polite and smart and you are bound to get excited about the process.  If you are interested in visiting, let me know and I will be happy to help you.