Almost 2 years ago, in the beginning of 2011, when I first introduced the (just “invented”) black tea from North Thailand, the “tea world” initially responded with the same skepticism... In both professional and tea lover circles, a discussion has unfolded on whether our DMS Shi Er Black Pearls really are a black tea now, or even a red one, or rather a very highly fermented/oxidized Oolong tea instead... Black tea: Western term for “completely” (beyond 94%, as a rule) fermented / oxidized tea of the Camellia Sinensis species... Red tea: Traditional Chinese term for “completely” (beyond 85% or 90%) fermented tea of the Camellia Sinensis species, however only with respect to Chinese teas... Dark Oolong tea: not a term defined by “science”, however, it is a winged word in tea lover circles, mostly used to describe a tendentiously rather high fermented / oxidized Oolong tea... Our “Black Pearls”are produced on the basis of Jin Xuan Oolong No. 12 cultivar (Chin. “12″ = “shi er”)... My preparation recommendations for the DMS Shi Er Black Pearls are based on my experiences gathered in meanwhile many hundreds of infusions... READ MORE
The actual roots of the tea cultivation in north Thailand are located on the Doi Tung mountain, more precisely in the middle of the 1990's in the local offshoot of the Thai Royal Development Projects... I was looking at an extended weekend, where I would be able to take the time for a journey to the Doi Tung, in order to follow the tracks of tea cultivation in north Thailand to their very beginnings... The Tourist Attractions of Doi Tung... The Royal Villa Doi Tung... Mae Fah Luang Flower Garden... Hall of Inspiration... Doi Tung Hilltribe Bazar... The teas gardens of Doi Tung... there are even virtually "forested" tea gardens, where the tea plants grow in the (half) shade of a treetop cover... They won't allow it to, it is these fresh tips they want to harvest, process and savor in particular. A proper hand picking of only and exclusively such tips yields the teas qualities that nowadays, given the flood of machine-harvested mass teas, are often referred to as "boutique tea"... READ MORE
Profiles in Tea: Thomas Kasper
(and the Story of SiamTeas)
Rather known as somebody, who talks a lot whenever asked, and even sometimes, when not asked at all, it is a great experience, if somebody comes along and cuts your stuff down to what you really had to say (correcting and bettering my somewhat humble English in the process, too). Janis Badarau, a tea-dedicated author and columnist, only recently did just that in the English Tea Store Blog, this providing an excellent summary not only of the becoming of SiamTeas, but also of the backgrounds of tea cultivation in north Thailand:
"This is the story of how a German translator and former beer drinker came to know and love tea … and became the owner of Siam Tee, specializing in the teas of northern Thailand... " READ MORE
At time of King Bhumbol Adulyadej's (also Rama IX.) accession to the throne on June 9, 1946, large parts of North Thailand and North East Thailand were widely isolated from Bangkok at the surrounding Central Thailand through geographic, infrastructural and cultural barriers... At the beginning of the 1950's, king Bhumibol started an intensive program, in whose context he traveled the country tirelessly for decades to its remotest corners to assess the situation and problems of the people on site by himself, consider possible options for remedy and improvement, and then initiate and accompany the identified measures... the Royal Development Projects... Until well into the 1960s, the cultivation of the opium poppy the use of the derived opium for medical purposes as well as a everyday means of leisure and recreation, were more or less an integral part of the daily life of many of the Northern Thai mountain people... The Golden Triangle... The Doi Tung development project maintains divisions in the fields of food, forestry, gardening and landscaping, tourism and artisan craftwork... Up to the Royal Development Project's initiative, tea was a common beverage in North Thailand only with the Shan and some of the hill tribes originating from China. They harvested tea leaves from wild growing tea trees... the cultivation of tea plants imported from Taiwan spread very quick in and around the above mentioned Chinese settlements, with the former opium stronghold Doi Mae Salong as the new tea capital of the north... Meanwhile, North Thailand has earned itself a name especially for its fine Oolong teas, but also green teas, and most recently, a rich and mild black tea from North Thailand have conquered many tea lovers' hearts worldwide and established their place of origin on the world map of tea. READ MORE
The following video shows "the becoming" of our Oolong No.12 Jin Xuan, together with the Oolong No.17 Ruan Zhi the major trademark of tea cultivation and production in Northern Thailand. Both hybrids originate from Taiwan's Lishan Highlands, from where they were brought to the mountains of North Thailand for cultivation in 1994. The effort has definitely been worth it, as our little film clearly demonstrates.
Principally, three main categories of tea processing can be differentiated: the processing to
• Green tea (not fermented)
• Oolong tea (part-fermented)
• Black tea (fully fermented)
Two more (sub-) categories can be added to the above-mentioned classification
• White tea (very light fermented)
• Pu Errh tea (post-fermented)
In the following description, we take orientation on the conditions at our producer partners in Doi Mae Salong, North Thailand. READ MORE...
There are numerous ways of preparing tea... The following video illustrates the preparation of Oolong tea (here the Oolong Nr. 17) in a variant of the Chinese tea ceremony as it is practiced by our Northern Thai suppliers... The tea ceremony has its origins in China, the country that is quite the cradle of all tea culture... One could say, the Chinese tea ceremony is a mixture of ritual framework, situational cirumstances and individual arrangement/personal discretion... Purpose of the tea ceremony is to achieve the best possible taste of the tea, the realization of the highest possible degree of beauty in the ritual's arrangement, and a social or individual situation of utmost harmony, in other words: the perfect moment in space and time... Besides the Taoist ones, Confucian and Buddhist influences, references and analogies can be found in the Chinese tea ceremony... Tools and Accessories of the Tea Ceremony... The "Tea Boat" (Tea Table)... The Teapot... The Teacup... Degustation Cup/Smelling Cup... The Gaiwan... The Tea Bowl... Tea "Cutlery"... Glass Pots... READ MORE...
While the world map of tea cultivation generally offers a rather stable appearance with little changes over the past centuries, a new spot had to be added to it just recently: Northern Thailand. Where opium fields dominated the mountainous terrain’s altitudes beyond 1000 m until about 20 years ago, making it an integral part of the infamous Golden Triangle, today a highly diversified variety of cash crops covers the slopes, among them fruit, nuts, vegetables , coffee, and, last but not least, tea. How Opium Fields turned Tea Gardens... Two factors played a key role in the initiation and development of the commercial cultivation and processing of high quality teas in Northern Thailand:
1. Thai Royal Projects 2. Ethnic Chinese Communities Especially Doi Mae Salong soon developed a broad spectrum portfolio of tea products, ranging from high quality Green Teas via Chinese and Taiwanese classic Oolong teas such as “4-Seasons Tea”, “Dong Ding Tea” and “Oriental Beauty” Tea and a range of scented or flavored teas, for which Jasmine Tea, Osmanthus Tea or Rice Tea, a particular Northern Thai/Shan areas specialty, might serve examples, to some herbal teas made from local herbs such as the Chinese “immortality herb” Jiaogulan and Safflower Tea. Just recently, Doi Mae Salong has even started producing a Black Tea that is often compared to a high quality Darjeeling by tea connoisseurs. READ MORE...