By Dan Bolton, editor of Tea Journey
Editor’s Note: Tea Journey is still on Kickstarter. Check it out now!
Antonio Rigno de Oliveira farms a small plot of land in Piatã, in Bahia, Brazil. His son-in-law, Vladimir, and wife, Zora, farm the adjoining land. Antonio and Zora are in their 60s. All three growers rely on the same local workers to prune their trees, weed and fertilize their soil and gather the harvest from their combined 70 acres. They have been farming for generations, nurturing the trees, watchful of pests and disease, each year producing a hand-crafted crop that sells well locally due to their reputation.
Last October, the coffee industry shined a 10,000-watt spotlight on Antonio, naming his pulped natural the best in Brazil (the largest coffee producing country in the world). Immediately after he accepted the top prize at the “Cup of Excellence” ceremony in Pocos de Caldas, I asked what led to his win.
Oliveria, an older man with the rough hands and weathered face of a coffee farmer, looked at me directly in the eye and pointed his index and middle fingers at his own eyes. He is saying that he keeps a “close eye” on the trees, the interpreter explained. Oliveria told me that he had 18 sacks to sell, about 1,080 kilos from the 2015 harvest.
Three months later, those lots of coffee were auctioned online for BRL $198,920 ($50,000), a new record and far more than the BRL $54,000 the coffee would have brought at a local sale.
The non-profit Alliance for Coffee Excellence has hosted more than 100 of these competitions and manages several auctions that have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for growers who receive 83% of the sale price. Top coffees sell for $30 to $50 a pound, sums that in a single season have radically changed the lives of growers for the better.
I believe that the tea industry will benefit from a greater focus on growers. Instead of reviewing sachets, I think tea tasters should also be evaluating the global harvest much as the wine industry evaluates vintages by vintner and region.
Tea Journey, a new consumer magazine for premium tea drinkers that will be hitting Kickstarter in less than a month, will change the consumer discussion from “which is the best tin?” to “what is the best terroir?” and from “what is the best brand?” to “which are the best gardens?”
Tea Journey is a mobile magazine that brings to the West in-depth tea knowledge sourced in the tea lands. It educates consumers on what quality teas look like dry and in the cup. The tea knowledge they gain takes them behind the counter so that they can confidently select the teas that will become their favorites.
The magazine is a collaborative effort of tea journalists and experts in the West and their counterparts in the tea lands. Tea Journey reporters live in 12 countries and speak 18 languages from Mongolian to Portuguese. Much of their work is being translated into English for the very first time. Partners in the venture include Suzette Hammond, Jennifer English, Jennifer Sauer, Si Chen, Nan Cui and Tony Gebely. Contributors include Jeff Fuchs, Francois Marchand, Kevin Gascoyne, Jane Pettigrew, Frank Miller, Nathan Wakeford, Felicia Stewart, Austin Hodge, Nicholas Lozito and Dan Robertson. Jennifer Sauer is our videographer. Jennifer Quail edits the Teaware & Antiquities section, Cynthia Gold and Barbara Fairchild and Robert Wemischner contribute to Tea Cuisine, and Dr. Nada Milosavljevic at Harvard Medical is the Health & Wellness advisor.
Tea Journey has contracts in place with publishers like the Chinese tea magazine Cha Dao Life which write about tea at a very high level. Instead of direct translation, our team of editors and experts “re-tell” in nuanced English what we learn from these native-language publications.
If funded, the multi-media magazine will publish three 150-page sections annually downloadable as PDFs. In between issues (April-August-November), feature-length articles will be posted every 10 days to the Tea Journey blog.
When it launches on Kickstarter on April 3rd, the Origin issue will bring readers to the tea grass gardens surrounding Higashiyama in the shadow of Mt. Fuji; to a 32-hour vigil in Wuyi as Yan Cha (rock tea) grower Yihua Luo keeps a watchful eye over the new harvest roast; and to Nepal where Susma Bastola writes in first-person how a Nepali woman and tea farmer manages her time in the tea garden “to bring out quality shoots irrespective of her busy family schedule”.
Click this link to see the prototype:
The August Tea Review spans 72 pages. Tea Journey has assigned professional tasters in every tea growing and tea trading region to evaluate the 2016 harvest. In-country tasters name the best tea gardens and individual teas that performed best against their peers. This is not a contest or a rating, merely the recommendations of experienced tasters without naming brands. Tea Journey believes it is best to focus the spotlight on the skills of growers and not the hyperbole of online commerce.
In November, Tea Journey presents a gift for gift-givers. Not only does the issue identify the year’s best teas for giving — you get a detailed report on teaware and electric brewers and tea kettles, a look at the best in tea tech and ideas for artisan tea craft from pottery to watercolor paintings brushed in tea. Discover why gifts of tea are a time-honored present at weddings.
During a five-year incubation I have sought out writers and photographers, museum curators, scientists, tea retailers and tea masters, all fluent in their local tongues and eager to share their knowledge — in fact, they were enthusiastic enough to finance the website design and to help pay for Tea Journey’s custom apps for Apple iOS and Android tablets and phones.
Tea Journey is like a digital caravan of storytellers who travel to tea origins and return with authoritative, elusive and exclusive articles, photos, and video that will help you discover your tea destiny.
Tea Journey inspires readers to discover and refine their taste in tea. The process of discovery cultivates an appreciation for the craft of growing, processing, and preparing great tasting tea — thereby opening doors to greater awareness of the good things in life. Tea is proven to enhance the well-being of those who drink several cups a day. Discovering a favorite tea increases the frequency of consumption which becomes a daily ritual and, in time, a healthy life-long habit.
Tea is more than a beverage, it is a universal experience and Tea Journey is the bridge that connects us all.