Why am I selling Thai teas?

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There are so many tea vendors online. Most of them say it’s a hard business, and don’t recommend it. One more vendor… why?

Well, there are a couple of places in time to start the story.

Let’s make it simple: I fell into the vast universe of teas in Quebec city in 2012, sharing an apartment with tea lover and former staff of the great Camellia Sinensis teahouse.

I then worked there myself, and deepened my knowledge and passion for the tastes, the history and brewing arts of tea. Definitely getting tea drunk at every shift. This period was a catalyst for me and influenced more of my professional trajectory than I could have guessed at the time. I can say I owe a lot to the great folks at Camellia Sinensis.

The first thing that came out of this experience – aside learning to be strictly on time! – was an initiation into ceramics. I kind of fell in love with teapots at the teahouse. Seeing how varied in shapes they could get, these precise and delicate little things, I started imagining new shapes. Design and functionality together made for an attrractive combo for my creative mind. I had studied Visual Arts in University but found little interest in the purely abstract or conceptual. Now a vessel that has functional constraints, but can take a million shapes within these, that was really interesting. Especially with the whole oriental thing around it.

Now a vessel that has functional constraints, but can take a million shapes within these, that was really interesting.

Long story short, I started learning ceramics and quickly made teapots.

Fast forward a couple years, and I left the yoga school I was involved in in Montreal, to start anew in… Thailand.

To my surprise and delight, Chiang Mai was home to a couple of ceramic studios, open to have interns, and I could continue my exploration of pottery, and also sustain my lifestyle by continuing to sell my pieces online to an international audience.

Not only could I continue my ceramics here, but I could also explore the tea scene around me, and start pursuing this dream of working in the world of tea, directly.

I had drink thai teas before, so I knew they existed, but only in the form of a few puerhs. Some aged teas processed in Yunnan are made of Burmese or Thai leaves. That was about what I knew of thai teas.

To my surprise and delight, again, I found a complete variety of high quality teas. First in Doi Mea Salong, a mountainous region occupied by former Taiwaneese refugees, where the same oolongs varieties are grown and the know-how from the home island is imported.

Then in Ban Rack thai where famillies with Yunaneese origins make oolongs too in the like of Tie Guan Yin and Dong Ding. Or around Chiang Mai itself where ambitious locals make high end black and white teas with the help of an expert from Darjeeling. Or else in the jungles of Pai, where a local tribe makes green teas and oolongs from wild trees.

Funny enough, the local tea scene is very underdevelloped, as the cafeinated drink scene is overwhelmed with coffee. It is mostly thanks to Chinese influence that Thailand is doing something out of the millions of tea trees that naturally populate its territory. There is a local tradition amongst certain tribes to roast green tea and drink it casually or eat it in salads, but it’s not really what I am looking for.

The plants are here, the soil and the elevation too, so even if the tea culture is yet to come, the potential is real. A producer I know makes one of the most exceptional sheng puerh from wild trees, another one a fine black tea with the Bai Hao cultivar, Qing Xing, that won many prices in China.

I first made these trip to the tea plantations for my own pleasure and to satisfy a curiority. Seeing that there actually were international level teas around me, I started ordering some and offering them to complement my teaware. I am not goig to lie, having a tea business is a dream of mine, and I see it as a long term possibility. I first thought of exploring Taiwan and China for this, but I think I’m unto something with what is readily available around me.

So, to answer the initial question: why am I selling teas? First it’s really just because I want to. Travelling around in the tea regions, meeting farmers, tasting loads of teas, packaging them, talking about them…. it’s only fun for me, and it is gratifying. There is something wholesome about tea culture – a blending of grassroots agriculture and sophisticated traditions – that makes it exciting and prestigious to participate in it, even in a very humble way.

There is something wholesome about tea culture – a blending of grassroots agriculture and sophisticated traditions – that makes it exciting and prestigious to participate in it

In terms of profit, I am keeping a minimal percentage for my work, just to make it worth it to continue. Quality teas require time and attention, and they are expensive, even in Thailand.

It is obviously not a get rich quick business, nor a get rich slow one, actually. It is first of all a passion and a personal interest. I am hopeful that I can share this passion with others through this endeavour, starting with propagating a bit the underrated teas of Northern Thailand.

Thank you for being a part of the journey!

Cheers. Robin.

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