One of the things I really enjoy is learning about new tea companies. So last week I went to a Bio Messe, which is an organic food trade fair, and mentioned that I hoped I'd find something tea-related. Soon after saying this on twitter, I get this response from Xavier:
@lahikmajoe At this Biomesse, you will be able to find a French tea company based in Alsace, Jardins de Gaïa.Was very happy to hear it, and off I went to Nürnberg. Was there on other business, so once I got that out of the way I started hunting for tea. I was particularly interested in finding the company Xavier had mentioned. Sure enough, without much difficulty, I rounded a corner in the section where many French companies were, there was les Jardins de Gaïa.
— teaconomics (@teaconomics) February 17, 2012
Here's their website if you'd like to know more about them:
les Jardins de Gaïa
The woman I talked to was very helpful and serious about her love for tea. I tried to explain how I'd heard about the company, but I think trying to explain who Xavier was and how he informed me that they'd be at this fair...my story just made me look like a madman.
The French, as a rule, seem to know how to handle awkward situations such as this, and this was no exception. I was served a cup of very nice Korean green tea, and told that it was made in the style of a Japanese Sencha but with a much more reasonable price.
I got the distinct impression that not just fair-trade, but economic development in tea growing countries is very important to this company. It would be one thing to pay this topic lip service, but as I looked through their catalogue I saw plenty of emphasis on this aspect of their business.
As I was getting ready to leave, I was asked if I'd like a sample of one of their teas. I'm a tea blogger for goodness sake - I'd love a sample. She opened her crate of tea, and while I peered over her shoulder, I hinted, 'I do like a nice Oolong.'
'Oh, in that case,' she responded, 'I've got just the thing for you. It's a nice lightly-oxidised Oolong from Vietnam.' This is just the sort of thing I like to try.
Here's what the website said about the Trà Kim Tuyên:
'Cueilli sur les hauts plateaux, ce thé aux feuilles d’un vert intense, peu oxydées, est proche du thé vert. Sa tasse brillante, fraîche et fruitée couleur anis, rappelle les Oolong de Taiwan. Son bouquet aromatique est dominé par des notes d’abricot et soutenu par de légères pointes de mangue et de fruits exotiques. Original et Rafraîchissant!' (this is a lightly oxidised High Mountain Oolong with bright green leaves...it's very similar to a green tea. A bit like a Formosa Oolong, the cup is fresh and fruity and the colour of licorice. The aromatic bouquet is dominated by apricot notes with peaks of mango and exotic fruit. Original and refreshing)
That sounds ok, doesn't it? It's actually a surprisingly good tea. I've now gotten quite a few infusions out of it, and I plan to continue steeping the same leaves tomorrow. It'll be my own version of Good Morning Vietnam.
Oh, and here are the leaves before I had my way with them: