Tea Trekker, the 2020 Spring Tea Harvest, and the Coronavirus Pandemic…
UPDATE ON THE 2020 SPRING TEA SEASON
– as of May 2, 2020 –
We have been receiving fairly steady correspondence from you, our loyal customers, checking in to confirm that we are okay.
Yes we are, thank you, and we trust that you are too.
The most important aspect of this pandemic for us is that the virus does not move by transmission within the food chain. Properly prepared food and related consumables such as tea and coffee are safe. The reason that there will likely be interruptions in availability of foodstuffs in the near term is simply one of logistics: the inability to reserve space on a vessel for transport, or a temporary reduction in personnel at airports or docks to handle the cargo.
So if there is a certain tea, or type of tea, that you have been waiting for all winter, it may be time to enjoy a different, great cup of tea, and be patient…this year, your teas of choice will arrive before you know it, but they will be later-to-arrive than usual!
To follow this year’s 2020 Harvest Arrivals, this is the link:
We are currently shipping out your current purchases on a very-close-to-normal schedule; however, in some instances there will be a modest delay in shipping due to particular days of the week, adjustments to pickup and delivery schedules, and other minor nuisances. But basically our out-going parcels are transporting very nicely. The U.S. Postal Service has advised us that in general their estimates of delivery time are inaccurate right now, so add at least one day to their estimate, depending on how remote your delivery address is.
THE 2020 EARLY SPRING TEA HARVESTS
A number of you have been seeking whatever information is available regarding the 2020 early spring harvests of tea in East and South Asia. This includes some of the early pre-Qing Ming and Yu Qian green teas (the ‘Spring Green Teas‘), the 1st Flush Darjeeling black teas, the Mengding Mountain Huang Ya (our main yellow tea), and other teas. This is what is known at this point:
We have some 2020 Darjeeling black teas en route, and many samples of Darjeeling and Nepal teas in process. Unfortunately the movement of these shipments is very slow because both India and Nepal are on at least partial lock down. So the early Himalaya teas will be picked, processed, and arrive when they arrive.
The Indian govt has recently started to allow a slow return to work, on a limited basis, with a reduced amount of staff in the tea gardens. This will help to bring the tea harvest in, but right now there is still the challenge of shipping it halfway around the world.
The Qing Ming festival was celebrated in China on April 5, and the teas manufactured prior to that were only the very early ones, as in any year, tea-wise.
As you know from following the harvest in years past, the principal months for spring tea arrivals here in the US are late April, May, and June. The vast majority of premium China spring green tea is harvested during the body of April into May, with Japan following in June & July. This generally means that we receive most of these teas in the beginning of May through to July. Therefore, many of these teas are still right on schedule.
Two of our tea sources in eastern China have shipped the first several containers of our early-harvest teas to us, so even though we expect shipping to be slower than usual, at least it is in the system and starting to travel to us…
We are definitely expecting a good season and year for tea, and so far the word out of China is that the really early teas are superb, and every tea that we have tasted so far has been quite good.
– ‘personal separation’ is easy in many Chinese tea gardens –
The good news is that tea stores well, generally, and I am sourcing now, as usual, so that I can reserve what I want to have for our selection for the year. My tea gardens in East Asia have just wrapped up the Yu Qian harvest, so the fresh Spring tea from the first two segments of the early harvests will arrive as soon as possible given the transportation problems. The China teas would have been a little later this year anyway (due to the weather and the ever-increasing paperwork required there to increase transparency and traceability). But the harvest could accelerate quickly, as it often does once the weather starts to really warm up.
A note about the relationship of a virus to tea:
– a modern tea factory in Japan –
Because some of you have asked, the manufacture that tea needs, to change from fresh leaf to shelf stable tea, requires that heat (hotter than is necessary to kill off any virus or bacteria) needs to be applied at numerous different times, and there are also several times when the leaf or the semi-finished tea needs to ‘sit’ for a length of time. All of these normal steps mean that there is not now and never has been any problem with the consumption of tea during or following the several world-wide episodes that we have had this century (seasonal flu, SARS, bird flu, swine flu, etc).
Detailed information about the manufacture and processing of camellia sinensis from leaf to tea can be found in our award-winning book, The Story of Tea, A Cultural History and Drinking Guide (Ten Speed Press 2007), which is available in book (hard and soft cover), Kindle, and audio formats.
– freshly-picked leaf for oolong, resting in Taiwan –
We here at Tea Trekker are quite interested in keeping you healthy, and Tea Trekker tea will continue to play a part in our collective healthy food habit.
– I taste and personally drink every tea that we source and sell to you –
THE TEA SEASON OVERVIEW
The early spring tea that we source is usually available from us here in Massachusetts two to three days after it is available in Shanghai or Hong Kong.
This will not be true for the 2020 early harvest teas from China. We do not normally ship our early tea by surface (ocean vessel) to avoid the somewhat normal 30-40-60 day+ transport ‘lag time’ added onto a tea’s availability that most tea merchants do. This year we will be using a very creative assortment of shipping methods to get our 2020 teas here as quickly as possible, and that will include some surface transport, as the experts are suggesting that the backup of air traffic will likely make air transit slower than ocean freight. So we will use the best means available when an individual or group of teas is ready to ship.
The peak months for Spring tea here at Tea Trekker are May and June, by the time the tea is harvested, manufactured, packaged, clears Chinese inspections and customs, and then flies over and is processed through USDA, FDA, and U.S. Homeland Security. We don’t have all the Spring teas come over together. The big companies still operate the way we did in the ’80s & ’90s – they hold the teas as they become available (in Asia) and consolidate the harvests together and ship by ocean vessel, but then the teas don’t arrive here until Sept/Oct. We have been shipping our early season teas by air since 2003 in an effort to receive the Spring teas as early as possible. This year we will use whatever means that we need to, in order to receive them as soon as we can! Most shipments such as ours travel by passenger aircraft, so there will be delays due to the significant decrease in those flights this year.
Our hope is that by the middle-to-end of summer we will be up to a full selection of 2020 Tea: green, black, oolong, white, and yellow.
THE TEA TIMELINE
We have several timelines that we have developed over the years that can be linked to from here.
These may assist you with your current and future decision-making: