Friday, March 20, 2015

The story of Bannablog and its future

Dear tea community, it's been a long time I haven't posted new articles on this blog.

I started Bannablog in Summer 2010, shortly after I bought my first camera. At the time, I was 19 and had just moved in Xishuangbanna, in the South of Yunnan, China. After high school, I decided to spend a year in China to fulfill my passion : tea. I spent six months in Kunming to learn the basics of Chinese and make my first contacts in the tea world. The purpose of my stay in Xishuangbanna was to explore the famous tea mountains and learn about Pu-erh tea growing and processing. I also wanted to understand how the tea farmers live in rural China.

Man Nuo, in the North of Menghai. My first tea trip with a camera.

Back in 2010, Xishuangbanna was very different from now, it was quite a remote region. I made friends with farmers I have seen change over time. Some of them were poor at the time, and they have now become very wealthy thanks to the tea business. Some had big projects, but life hasn't granted them success yet. Many people I used to hang out with now have children. Besides tea, I feel I have learned a lot about life during my stay there.

The blog was very active at this time, I used to post once a week, between two tea trips. I had plenty of time and only tea on my mind. Each visit to a tea mountain felt like a whole adventure and I keep many good memories from that time.
Hunting birds in the jungle near Gua Feng Zhai in Yiwu mountain

After six months in Xishuangbanna, my next stop on the tea road was India. New culture, new approach to tea. As I moved to this country, I stopped blogging, I had other things in mind and I wanted my blog to stay focused on Chinese Pu-erh tea anyway. I visited Darjeeling, but I was out of luck : the factories were on strike because of separatists movements. I collected many pictures and information but didn't process them well enough to write about them. However, this visit broadened my vision of tea, I found another system in India. The tea industry in Darjeeling is managed by corporations, while most of the tea in Yunnan is made by smallholders. This difference has important social impacts

Darjeeling, on the foothills of Himalaya

Eventually, I went to university. I think taking a break after high school is very beneficial, even though it is very uncommon in France. Still, education is very important in order to get a better understanding of the world and have tools for the mind. Tea is closely linked to Nature, this is why I decided study biology and ecology for my bachelor's degree. I learned a lot of interesting facts about Nature, i love to talk about the diversity of life forms on earth and how they impact each other, I have a preference for insects because they look so cool and funky !

The tea shield bug, one of my favorites!

But tea isn't only about plants, it's actually a link between men and Nature, this is why I didn't graduate from university, instead, I joined an agricultural college in order to learn more about men in addition to Nature. The very outdated French system requires you to prepare for a highly competitive exam similar to the Chinese Gaokao after which your are able to select from the best colleges in France. The work environment is much better than in regular universities because of the smaller number of students in class and I feel this teaching is really helpful for my understanding of tea. We learn how to deal with the complex issues faced by the farmers in impoverished areas. Understanding agriculture requires knowledge in a large variety of subjects : hard and soft science, from physics and chemistry to business and sociology. I love that !

Bannablog hasn't been very active since I have entered agricultural college because the class and student life kept me very busy. Every day, I learn a lot about things related to tea, be it about how plants pump their nutrients or how smallholders adapt to food price fluctuations in Kenya. You can always relate some of that information to the world of tea. I am so grateful to life to be able to learn so many new things !

Currently, I am an exchange student at National Taiwan University in Taipei. It's a great opportunity to learn about agriculture from very interesting professors, open a new window on the world of tea and improve my chinese furthermore.

There is also another thing i haven't mentioned :I have found my love in the name of Yubai (玉摆), a pretty tea girl from Jingmai mountain. We met while I was living in Xishuangbanna, and I have gone back as often as possible to China since then to meet her. We like to travel in the best tea places of Asia. We like to walk in Jingmai ancient tea gardens together, looking for interesting things on the tea trees or in the soil, picking fruits and meeting friends. We like to investigate tea together, improve the farming and processing techniques in her tea farm, conduct and monitor experiments... After I graduate, Yubai and I want to live together, we have bigger projects with tea that I will detail later on.

You are more and more buying tea on, I am happy to see that many people like our tea selection. Bannacha is only the first step towards more ambitious goals. Our aim is to bring the consumers closer to the tea producers. I feel our society lives in a more and more virtual environment, made of electronic stimuli and concrete blocks. Our busy life lets us few time to remember how connected to the soil our existence is. I believe that this connection can be re-established through a cup of tea. Tea can have such a diversity of tastes thanks to the natural processes that occur during its growth, processing and storage. We want to give you the opportunity to make that connection, and for that, we sell tea leaves. We also want you to have access to information about these leaves, we hope you will then feel closer to the tea gardens, more connected to Nature.

This blog is not an advertising platform for my online tea shop. The main goal of bannablog is to share my ideas with you, dear readers. In the following weeks, I will write articles about tea with a focus on agriculture and nature. You are welcome to leave comments or to send me emails, I am always happy to discuss tea with fellow drinkers.  

Thank you!

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