Supply & Demand
And The Rising Cost of "Green Gold"
To: Our Worldwide Tribe of Tea People
From: Daniel, Snow, Jolene, Dexter, Linda & Dave
In a previous issue of Tea Tidings written about two years ago, we predicted that the supply of Taiwan’s best organic High Mountain Tea would shrink, while prices would inflate correspondingly, and that’s exactly what’s happening. We also suggested that dedicated devotees of the premium organic High Mountain Oolong Teas that we offer on our menu should promptly purchase adequate supplies of their favorite teas to keep their tea pots warm and their tea cups full for at least three years. We repeat that advice here and now, for this trend shall continue into the foreseeable future, and not only because of the weather.
One of the first things we realized was the distinct possibility that at some point over the next few years, natural and man-made disasters, which now occur with accelerating frequency, growing intensity, and utter unpredictability, could easily disrupt international trade and destroy key tea production facilities at any time and any place, making it impossible to buy any premium tea at any price for prolonged periods that could continue for several years. Imagine, for example, what would happen to the tea trade in Taiwan if, or when, those smoldering reactors in Fukushima explode! Or if China and Japan go to war over the Diao Yu Islands, and Taiwan gets dragged into it. So appalling loom such prospects at our tea table that we have purchased and stored away enough of our favorite varieties of High Mountain Oolong Tea to last us for at least three to five years, just in case of a global tea famine. As firm believers in that old gem of Chinese tea wisdom--"better three days without food than one day without tea" - we feel it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to our morning tea, and we suggest that all our tea friends do the same.
The Mainland China Syndrome
Another factor that’s cutting down the supply, driving up the demand, and inflating the cost of Taiwan’s best quality High Mountain Tea is the recent opening of direct travel between mainland China and Taiwan. Flights now link Taipei directly with Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming, and other major cities in China, opening the gates of Taiwan to a flood of eager visitors from mainland China. It did not take long for Taiwan’s mainland Chinese cousins to discover and develop a fond taste for the peerless flavor and fragrance, as well as the potent therapeutic benefits, of Taiwan’s High Mountain Oolong tea. Armed with the enormous purchasing power they’ve recently acquired, these nouveau riche visitors from the mainland have been buying up huge quantities of Taiwan’s best High Mountain Oolong and sending it back to China, leaving less and less each year for the rest of us.
One of their favorite ways of spending money in Taiwan is to visit famous High Mountain Oolong Tea plantations, taste a few of their best premium teas, then buy up the plantation’s entire supply of those teas, paying for it with cash on the barrel and having it all shipped back home to the mainland. This development has already caused a critical shortfall in supplies of the best grade teas within Taiwan, and it’s making it increasingly difficult to buy these teas overseas. Fortunately, our suppliers are also our friends, and so far they have always reserved a quota of their top teas for us, but the quantities available to us are definitely shrinking year by year, and the prices are going up. So if the prospect of running out of High Mountain Oolong Tea and dragging yourself through the day without it, with no way of buying any more at any price, terrifies you as much as it does us, you’d better grab a stash of your favorite leaf while we still have it in stock.
This is a growing problem that is causing serious concern among tea connoisseurs in Taiwan, and it’s something that should worry High Mountain Tea aficionados throughout the world as well, because this syndrome is reducing the availability and increasing the cost of Taiwan's precious supplies of organic High Mountain Tea even faster than the damage to Taiwan's tea plantations caused by raging typhoons.
And if that's not enough to convince you, here's another reminder of why you don't ever want to run out of your favorite organic High Mountain Oolong Tea from Taiwan, especially when you stumble groggily out of bed first thing in the morning:
The root purpose in the Way of Tea
is to clarify the mind.
This is also the heart in the Way of Zen...
The best way to verify this truth for yourself is to drink your best tea early in the morning, on an empty stomach before eating, either alone or with your beloved, in the silence and serenity of a clean and quiet setting, with single-minded attention focused upon the art of proper preparation, the aesthetic appreciation of the utensils, and the alchemy of the tea in your belly. Feel how each cup of tea sweeps another cobweb from your head and progressively clarifies your mind and purifies your body. How many cups it takes each morning to reach the heart of Zen depends on how bogged down your body feels and how muddled up your mind is when you get out of bed that day.
For us it takes many cups, but it always works without fail, and we always know that we've reached the magic mark when the last few cups taste like sunlight.