pátek 4. května 2012

Spring of 2012 - drought and rising prices again

In this article, I'd like to write about several issues - maybe not really coherent, but hopefully interesting - about the situation on yunnan tea market. I would like to point out that I am mentioning the rise in prices purely as a fact, not trying to justify my own rise in prices. On our journeys this spring we have managed to buy maocha at good prices, except for Yiwu, but as we like it so much and we did what we could, we are quite happy.
The weather is, as in 2010, very dry and warm. Because of a very mild winter (if we can call it that at all, there was no winter to speak of), we could see taidicha (garden trees) harvest, but in some places, even older tea trees have grown new spouts!
Even at the beginning of March, it seemed that the harvest would be similar to the last year, which was very good and of high quality, especially pertaining maocha. 
However, after the 20th of March, when we started our journey for this year's maocha, it became clear tthat the drought is really strong and will cause problems.

Let's make a few notes on several kinds of tea:
1) Green teas (lucha) - green teas appeared quite early this year. With several exceptions, they lack the aroma, leaves are not pretty and as the harvest is only 2/3 of the last year, the price is higher too (about 10% more expensive).

2) Red tea (hongcha) - As the green teas, many basic-level teas are entirely undrinkable, middle and higher classes are acceptable. The price of yunnan red tea rises by some 10% a year and it is the same this year (the prices may go even higher).

3) Maocha - With several exceptions, the tea trees have much less leaves than last year, old trees sprout more slowly and only one spring harvest may be ddone. Maocha in many places tastes a bit more bitter ("si wei") and somewhere lacks freshness and aroma.

In general, traders with tea said that with few exceptions (the Laobanzhang village, Xikui, Bingdao and few others), maocha should not rise in price anymore. Probably the largest madness happens in Bingdao (Mengku, Lincang), which was 800 RMB in 2010 spring, 1500 RMB in 2011 and 3500-3800 RMB in 2012 (1 RMB ~ 3 CZK or ~ 1/6 of US dollar)!!

In several places with high quality gushu tea trees, the prices have risen by 20-30%, to our discontent, also in Yiwu. If the rise is from 1500 CZK to 1800 CZK, it is a lot, but the 300 CZK difference gets lost in five 200g cakes. However, in villages as Wangong, Chawangshu and further locations between Dingziazhai and Guafengzhai, the price for maocha was 2400 CZK last year and is 4800 CZK today - that is really a big difference. Still, the demand was higher than the supply - mostly traders from Canton, Hongkong and Taiwan.
We are very glad that in the Jingmai area (Jingmai Da Zhai to be exact - the best known village, with probably the oldest tea trees) the prices stayed at the level of previous year. The quality is as good too, it did not got worse, nor more bitter (the bitterness is typical of this area).

It was not so in whole of Jingmai - e.g. in the Mang jing village, where it was obvious that the harvest would be smaller and as a result, the prices of "sheng tai qiao mu" have risen by 100%. It is difficult to say if the price was not lowered again - when the rise in price is this high, the buyers often wait and let the farmers to fluster.

That's all for today, if you have any further questions, please write me an e-mail to
H. Brož

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