Tea master's reflections ahead of 4th production season
Let's face it. As the stage is set for season 4, we are no longer complete rookies as tea makers. So, the bar we have set for ourselves must be raised! But we are no veterans either, so we have to look at it as a gradual process. Always proud, never satisfied, is the motto I try to follow in work and I think it suits well for our current situation as well.
In plantations we are still learning how our different tea plant varieties behave, what the climate and soil are like, and all those subtle and not so subtle interactions between all of them. In the factory, I think our overall skill level has by now reached maybe 30-40% of the overall potential. Of course, Tomas would claim it to be much higher for him :) And I am happy for that, but that doesn't change the reality much. Every season the learning curve has stayed steep and I expect it to stay so at least for the next 2-3 years before it starts to flatten.
Renegade factory full of leaves!
Still, despite our relatively limited experience, we have had a fair amount of success in figuring out our product range. For the first time ever we have a clear production plan and more or less fixed product list that we can put on the factory wall. Either by pure luck or maybe because of a sizeable amount of random experiments that we have conducted on a weekly basis every season, we have managed to come up with some pretty cool recipes. Evening Lilac, Green Velvet, Lazy Morning, Georgian Breakfast - each of them has got a growing number of dedicated fans.
What are our plans and goals for season 4?
As every season before, there is an ambitious agenda in front of us and probably we are a bit more optimistic than the reality will confirm when the season concludes. But losing optimism is a certain path to eventual failure, so all good I suppose.
Apart from many small tweaks and a number of random tests that are part of our weekly routine anyway, there are 3 focus areas, where we would like to take the next step forward this summer.
Thinking with Tomas
1. "Brightness" of our green teas.
Green Velvet is a star among our greens and loved by a growing number of customers for its smooth and sweet profile and Viridi Veritas is another interesting small-batch spring tea. The rest of the pack however requires some further adjustments in my opinion. We still have stability issues with Sunset/Tulip Garden, where the differences between the batches sometimes turn out to be bigger than we would like. We have some excellent batches and then others which are a bit boring or slightly over-oxidized. Also, I would want to find a way to bring out a more intensive aroma and increase something I call "brightness" in taste for Kartuli Alphabet.
2. Figuring out, how Renegade summer white tea tastes and looks like.
Last year we made the first attempt with Imereti Summer and while the name will probably stick, the tea itself will almost certainly be different this season. How exactly, we will need to sort out through testing.
White tea experiment
3. This elusive "roasty oolong" thing…
Damn! Based on the limited feedback from season 2, I am reasonably confident, that Winter Remedy would have at least as dedicated a following as Georgian Breakfast or Green Velvet. Unfortunately, there are so far just 2 batches ever, that we have got right. One made by myself, the other by Tomas. Clearly, we have not fully understood, what part of the process or what characteristics of the leaf or weather result in this sweet, mild "roastiness" flavour. We will be back at it again this year. One way or another we are going to figure it out.
4. Oh, and last but not least… Tomas and his Crazy Scientist path will continue as well.
Last autumn he made one small batch that literally had a scent of pure strawberries and it tasted like a tea made out of dried strawberries as well. And then he had another one with plums instead of strawberries. Oh, and the one with the aroma of old socks… but that one we didn’t like so much.
Anyways, our hands will be full, the days will be hot and the season comes to an end before we realize - that is for sure. Everything else we will find out soon enough. Let's ride it out!