Teazaar is proud to share stories of the people that are behind the delicious teas listed on its webshop. Here’s another one from Meije (Sister Mei) who hails from Sanjiang tea growers. Her story is one of persistence, hard work, and entrepreneurship.
My name is Wu Yumei but everybody likes to call me Meije (Sister Mei). I am a native Dong (also known as Kam people) and was born in Sanjiang in 1980. Many people are surprised when I tell them that my life is defined by leaving and returning to Sanjiang. This journey of my life started when I was 18 years old.
Sanjiang is my home and I have seen how improvised it was back in when I was a little girl. It didn’t have any local economy and people had to leave the area to find work and earn money in order to survive.
For a decade I had to do many different jobs in different places to sustain myself and my family. These were tough times not because the work was tough but because I really missed my home.
Luckily, I was hired by a company that had started its operations in my own region and I couldn’t believe it – I was going to sell local products and it was tea!
They say that if you are passionate about something everything falls into your lap and all you must do is work hard. Well, my boss saw that I loved working with tea and quickly made me in charge of the tea division of the company. It was during this time when my boss and I found an opportunity: locally, many residents were brewing a special dish from leaves of very old teas that were growing in Sanjiang. Known as Youcha (oil tea) it was a delicious soup dish that used these tea leaves as its basic ingredient.
This was an opportunity that both I and my boss saw – maybe we can use these leaves to create a new, delicious tea? You know what’s surprising, I have been eating this dish ever since I was a little girl and yet I never thought about this opportunity.
The Old Tea Trees and the Tea Master
To make our ambition into reality, we wanted someone who can help us and that’s where we hired a tea expert. Together we both traveled in Spring to the mountain villages and met with the local people. While meeting these wonderful mountain folks. These people have been using these leaves for many years in their food and I learned so much from their tea wisdom.
We also took small amounts of buds and leaves from the trees. Using these we tried to process them into different tea varieties but most of them failed. After many failures, we found success with one, and it was worth it. Its aroma and taste were both soulfully good.
A delicious black tea was born from these old tea trees.
Now we wanted a local guy to become a tea master. Why? Because just like me, I wanted someone who was passionate about tea and will master the skill to produce high quality, natural black tea. Often, it is the locals that understand their trees better. And luckily, we found one!
After months of hard work and passion, he was ready to become our very own tea master. Enter Tea Master Zhang. Part of our team, together we cultivated a unique and delicious tea which could easily compete with the best black teas of China!
Quality Vs Quantity – Tradition vs nontraditional
We were all set to conquer the tea market but… we realized that we are dipping into a large ocean filled with big whales. Being a small natural, black tea producer didn’t do us any favors as we had to directly compete with established monoculture tea gardens. These gardens were in the business longer than us and were more renowned than us even if our tea tasted better.
At that time not many tea buyers appreciate tea cultivated naturally if the price was too high. Since many of the Guangxi black teas are being produced by huge monoculture tea gardens, we couldn’t reduce the prices as they can. Here’s why:
We picked all the buds and leaves from big trees. These trees were unique and few. Secondly, the bigger monoculture tea gardens were producing a bigger harvest every year because they were using chemical fertilizers to increase their yields.
Many of our local friends saw our problem and told us to cut the big trees! And some even started to do so. It was a terrible time, with many restless nights. I wanted to do it because this was something so close to my heart and I didn’t want to lose it but on the other hand, I wanted to work with naturally produced tea, not the one using man-made chemicals and techniques. In my opinion, tea is meant to be natural as nature intends it to be.
So, I was in a big dilemma. Either I cut the big trees and start selling tea for lower prices?
While I was worried about what to do, I met Renco.
Renco came into my tea tasting shop in Spring 2010. I will never forget that day as I was thinking about how I will solve my problems and in my shop was a tall man asking if he can drink some tea. It really isn’t easy to find our shop but Renco had come looking for it.
I was intrigued and asked about him. He said he was following his intuition and gut feeling and my shop was the first one that felt right. I was delighted but little did I know I was soon going to become part of Teazaar!
Renco’s vision of future
Renco was wonderful. We drank some tea together and I heard one of the best stories in my life. A story of future of tea.
His vision was to ensure all tea in the world is natural. If no tea plantations and gardens used chemicals, not only will we be able to get healthy and delicious tea but also reduce the impact of tea cultivation on earth.
Renco’s life mission was to make his vision a reality. And to do this, he was visiting tea gardens all over China and sharing his vision with the owners, and anyone working in the tea market. The plan was simple, connect all the tea gardens in the world with tea shops across the world. And when they are all connected in one family, together everyone can easily create a better future where the only tea is the natural tea!
This was it. Where I had lost all hope, I found Renco and Teazaar. Not only I knew he was right, but I also wanted to help him achieve his vision. And he loved our black tea. Asked for a second cup as soon as he was done with his first one. So next day we were both going up into the mountains in a pickup, We meandered through rough tracks, shallow rivers, and sandy roads to reach the home of tea master Zhang.
From there we went further into the mountain and arrived at the source of our leaves, the old tea trees. I loved Renco’s reaction when he saw these beautiful aged trees and for a moment all three of us were silent and didn’t say much.
And from that day till now, I have been part of Teazaar, working with Renco on his mission to make natural tea.
The Tea Company
After meeting with Renco, I knew what I had to do. So, I discussed it with my boss and tea master Zhang and we all decided that we are going to focus on old tea trees and cultivate only natural tea.
We create a new company and started a completely new tea shop!
It has been steadily growing in both size and number of customers and we are only selling natural tea. I will admit, it hasn’t been easy, we still need to do a lot of things. But knowing that I am now part of Teazaar where everyone is focused on using natural tea warms my heart and gives me the strength to continue.
It’s your turn to act now:
There many stories like Sister Mei from Sanjiang who had to work very hard to bring natural, delicious tea to all of us on Teazaar.
Teazaar isn’t about money its about natural tea and if you are hesitant to join us, do keep Sister Mei in mind who has to fight with the locals and competitors so that she doesn’t succumb to modern ways of tea cultivation. Teazaar is her platform like many others, focusing on unaltered, natural tea.
For individuals like Sister Mei, it's an uphill battle. She only harvests a small supply but its high-quality black tea available at reasonable prices, considering all the costs involved. At Teazaar you can easily order one of China’s best black tea from the comfort of your home and even pre-order for next year!
If you have any questions for Sister Mei, all you need to do is share them in the comment section below and our team will translate and write to Sister Mei for you.