Over a cuppa, the founders and Yuyun tea chat about the origins of tea, the benefits (and dangers) of tea, tea time and tea ceremonies, and mindful tea drinking. I hope you enjoy this video!
Zora: Hi everyone. My name is Zora, I'm the founder of Yuyun. You can see Michael. Michael is my co-founder. We both established this brand in 2020. We have been running this business around a year. To be honest it's really tough for us to do this business because the pandemic, everything has been shutdown. We started to do this online. Hopefully in the near future we'd like to open a real store in London. That is our future plan.
Kayla: That's so exciting. I'm glad that we can have this virtual tea party-- [crosstalk]
Zora: Lot's of people have been asking us, "Do you guys have a real tearoom?" We're just saying, "No, unfortunately because the COVID, it just stopped us." Disrupt everything, so we have to restart through the plan. We started doing online. I think right now everything has been back to normal. Hopefully we can welcome everyone to have tea with us in real person instead of doing online.
Kayla: Obviously exciting. What tea do you have today right now for our chat?
Zora: We only focus on the tea coming from my hometown. It's a very small area in China. The tea come from China and my hometown is the original place of tea trees, so it's the hometown of the hometown. Tea trees come from there. Our tea is very special because many teas have different types especially here. The tea may be just small, come from the small and medium trees, but my hometown especially specialize in big trees, so it's different. We only do tea from my hometown. We are the niche market of the niche market because people here, they only drink tea using tea bags. We do not want people to drink tea bags, we want people go with loose-leaf tea.
Kayla: What's the name of your hometown?
Kayla: Yunnan. I'm going to pronounce it wrong I'm sure.
Michael: We're Yunnan tea specialists.
Zora: Yunnan actually means a colorful cloud. It's a pretty beautiful name.
Kayla: That's lovely. Walk me through the type of tea. It's a black tea or?
Zora: Yes. Black tea and green tea, and another tea and dark tea. It's very special. It's only China has this tea. It's called dark tea. Maybe you have another name. People here call it puer.
Kayla: Oh, yes.
Zora: If you're familiar with that name, that's more well known name, but the type is dark tea.
Kayla: Cool. Is there a distinct taste or smell or something to the teas from this area?
Zora: Yes. Actually the tea smells like fruit. Maybe Michael can give you a little bit more introduction about this tea because I think Michael got a nose. He has a very sensitive nose. Every time he smells a new tea, he always can immediately specify the certain nose but I'm like, "I'm not sure about what's the frequency of it." Michael it's your turn.
Michael: Okay. [chuckles] I'd say tea from Yunnan tends to be quite robust, so it's really good for blending. It gives a really nice body to any kind of tea you mix it with. That includes roses and other kind of flowers or herbal teas. You can mix together and actually have a nice, stronger but heavier brew. The general characteristics of Yunnan tea tend to be sweet and smooth. You get this sweet, fruity notes. We have one tea, it's called golden tip and it smells like caramel. I love caramel. I could be in the tearoom and I'm just smelling there, I'm just like, "Oh, it's real nice." It's so good. We have nutty, different malts. Quite a range. Currently I've got some in front of me right now. The tea I'm drinking is our Classic Gongfu. I can just take a little bit out for you. Let me show the camera.
Kayla: I wish I could smell the screen.
Michael: Good. We've got tea like this. [inaudible 00:05:05]. I mentioned earlier that tea from Yunnan is cultivated, it's known as big leaf tea. Tea there is known as Camellia sinensis, which is an evergreen shrub. You can get it in tree form but you can also get it in bush form. Most of the world has in bushes but in Yunnan you can get ancient tea trees. Big leaf tea is from these trees rather than bushes. You can see, if I just show you one of these leaves, they're huge.
Kayla: Yes, it's very long.
Zora: It's really big.
Michael: These are the highest quality of leaf you can get. That's what we pride ourselves when we get Yunnanese tea. It's the high-quality sweetness.
Zora: That's why we promote this whole time because we want people to appreciate tea leaves. We want people to see what actually the tea is because people here, they already get used to drink with tea bags. Actually, what's inside the tea bags is actually tea powder or the brew from the teas. Maybe people never know what the tea looks like. They actually see the loose tea leaf, they're like, "Wow. Is it the tea we're drinking?" Because they don't know what tea looks like. We would like to give people a little bit education about the tea because everybody drinking tea everyday, but we really take everything as granted, we never appreciate the little things in our whole life. That's why [unintelligible 00:06:52] Yuyun because we wanted people to cherish the little things in their life.
Kayla: Controversial question, do you put milk in the tea?
Zora: Actually yes. You know Chinese people, we don't drink tea using milk, we just drink tea itself. This tea from my hometown is the only Chinese black tea you can brew with the milk. The only one. You can do it in a British way or do it Chinese way, whatever you like.
Michael: I like it with milk.[chuckling]
Kayla: No surprises there. Awesome. Why don't you walk me through some of the benefits of tea. I'm a big tea fiend myself. There's benefits to, I think, all kinds of tea. I'm wondering if the tea from this area has any particular kinds of benefits or just in general the joys of drinking tea.
Michael: I think it's more of my topic. I posted a blog recently, which is how many cups of tea can you have in a day. It's interesting because when we do ask people, "How many teas do you drink a day or how many do you think it's safe to drink?" Because everything in excess is bad for you, let's just get that clear straightaway. If you have too much water, it can kill you. If you have too much of anything, it can kill you or be bad for you. Tea is like that in a way. I think part of our message, part of our brand ideal is to be more transparent about what is in tea and the good stuff, the bad stuff. I think I just want to say some of that right now actually, I can tell you. I tend to focus on the bad stuff more than the good stuff because the good stuff's, there's no real evidence to say that it does exist and it is happening, but it's been associated with other things like antioxidants in the tannins. They're called chain of polyethanols. It could be too sciencey. Polyethanols have been proven to help fight cancer such like that. Because tannin is a polyethanol, they believe that tea does the same thing in terms of fighting cancer and attacking free radicals, and such. You have that benefit of tea in the first place just because of that association. I know green tea has a certain property. They call it anti-calories, a fat burning compound within it.
Michael: It depends how much you drink obviously. You need to drink a lot of tea in order to get the benefits. Actually, a controversial point of this will be actually you need to drink a lot of tea before you get any of the good stuff but by that time you have already got the bad stuff too. I will briefly just talk about the bad stuff because I can really go into it better. You've got caffeine, which everyone knows about because caffeine's in Coke, it's in all kinds of stuff, and it's a stimulant. It increases productivity. Tea labels, they might brand themselves in saying increase your productivity or get yourself some energy, or boost your metabolism, that can all be linked to caffeine. We know caffeine is also bad for anxiety, it can cause sleep deprivation, all these other kinds of nasty things. It's good and bad. You get good and bad together.
The second, you have tannins. Tannins can be found in red wine, chocolate. It's this astringency that comes with these rich foods. Tannins, they are the antioxidants. They are the polyethanols, they're the stuff that's associated with the best part of tea, which is the antioxidants in clearing your system. I guess maybe good for digestion as well. I think tannin is also meant to help your teeth as well. They can actually clear your-- Give you whiter teeth as well. I've heard that. I'm not going to prove that, but I've heard that too. The bad side of tannin is that if you have a deficiency of iron, you shouldn't drink anything with tannin because tannins bind to iron in your body. It can absorb iron. If you have an iron-rich diet, that's fine, but just to be careful of that as well.
The third is oxalate. That's probably the worst thing too, because I'd say most British people get their oxalate from tea. Oxalate is a compound that connects to calcium. If you have obviously a calcium-rich diet, it's fine. If you have milk with your tea, even better. You can avoid that because it binds, but it will absorb the calcium from your body. Calcium oxalate is known as kidney stones. Oxalate-rich foods include beetroot, rhubarb, lots of really healthy stuff actually. Usually it's worth it because you have all these benefits. I think there is a story in America about a guy drinking 16 eight-ounce glasses of tea, ice tea, every single day and he got this-- He had to go to the hospital basically because of just emergency, because he got kidney stones of course.
There's good and bad stuff. I think in terms of the good stuff, you need to drink a lot of tea in order to get those benefits. Maybe six to eight cups a day, and you would get the bad stuff of that too. We tend to draw more away from the well-known good things about tea, and we tend to focus on like taking a moment, taking a rest, taking that break because that naturally just is about de-stressing yourself. It's looking inwards and meditating with our tea, which is the basis of Gongfu brewing. Just having a personal 30-minute session just drinking tea.
Kayla: That's so nice. I'd love to hear more about the tea cultures in the UK and China. I did live in the UK a little bit, but I feel like I brought with me this North American idea of tea and coffee where you often get it as a takeaway and you drink it while you're walking, or you bring it to your desk at work, and you don't really take a break. I'm curious to hear more about different tea cultures because when I was traveling, especially when I was traveling through Japan and India, they really do take a break. You sit and you have the tea, and you enjoy it, and you smell it, and you taste it. I'd love to hear more about that side of tea culture.
Zora: In China and the Buddhist, believe tea can make you find your inner peace. If you're drinking tea you can settle down and realize--
Michael: Anyway, while Zora's working that out I'll just take over for a little bit. I know in different parts of the world tea is served in loads of different ways. You have India, Sri Lanka, Africa, South Africa as well actually, obviously China, all do different ways of serving tea. I know in Morocco and North Africa, you have like these mint teas. In Sri Lanka, you have condensed milk with tea, it's like really sweet iced teas. You have boba tea in Taiwan and China, that's really taken off. I think there's this cream cheese teas now going about, and these look definitely like calories. I'm just like, "Wow, it's a lot to take in."
There's loads of different, I guess, modern renditions of tea, and how it's just developing. I guess that is a reason to go out to a shop or a store and buy a takeaway cup. Like a Starbucks coffee, you'd go to like a bubble tea shop and you'd get it. That would be its own social point in a way. You'd go out with friends and you'd have a drink of this nice, I guess, beverage, compared to being at home and making it all yourself. I guess you don't have that going out with friends vibe. At the same time, here in the UK, I guess before COVID, it wouldn't be uncommon for you to invite someone to your house and have a cup of tea with a family member. When I see my parents, we always have a cup of tea and chat. I think it's very normal here.
Zora: In China, we all believe drinking tea can make you find your inner peace. It's drink tea and you can calm down. We do have tea ceremonies which incorporate agriculture, like the music, dance. In China, drinking tea is not only about drinking tea. Drinking tea is how you find yourself within the Chinese culture, which is Cha Dao . I think in Korea and in Japan, all these East Asian countries, we all feel the very similar thing. Here in Britain, people do drink afternoon tea. Drink and eat some sweets, the scones and biscuits, and talk. People find here, and drinking tea is very elegant. A beautiful lady drinking tea and you're saying they're very British. It's very British way. It's very different. You find tea in China and tea in Korea is quite different, although tea come from China.
I found one thing is really interesting is, when you talk about tea, a tea ceremony and people usually think British first. They just think the British afternoon tea, but just a few people would think about Chinese tea. I don't know why, I'm not sure how this will happen, maybe because Britain do PR very good. I'm saying PR, they do marketing, they do marketing very good. It's their identity. It's like they're bragging about themselves, "We are British, and we do focus on the courtesy, and elegance," that sort of thing. I think maybe Chinese people need to do more PR, do more marketing about culture. Instead of give people a feeling about how fast we're developing, our economy is getting stronger and stronger, I feel Chinese people need to focus on cultural aspect a little bit more.
Michael: I think here, when you say about PR, I think that's because it's just Western culture and spreading to America.
Zora: When you talk about Japan or Korea, the people only think about manga, Japanese animation, or a Korean pop culture, the BTS, and everybody knows them, the idol group. When you talk about Chinese culture, and people here, especially in the UK, they always think about Chinese food, Chinese restaurant, instead of really think about a really good Chinese culture. I think maybe we just focus more on our economy and instead give people a softer power, because I think culture is softer power.
Kayla: What does a tea ceremony look like in China, or what role does it play, or how often might somebody do it?
Zora: It's the performance. A tea specialist will put loads of different very professional equipment and give people how to pour tea, how to make tea taste good, and tell people what's the story behind the tea. One, for example, you can't pour very low and very full cup because that's very impolite, because give people a full cup, it's like, "I'm refusing you. You can't come to my house next time." We have to pour a tiny bit, just a tiny bit of water and tiny bit tea, give to you, I think you're very calm, you're very welcome to come to our house next time, that sort of thing.
Kayla: That's so interesting.
Zora: It's very interesting. Especially in my hometown, people just always-- The host will drink tea first instead of giving the guest a tea because in my hometown, it got loads of different poisons like the grass, the plants and the insects. In the past, the people were always killed by the different plants, so people are a little bit suspicious about the unknown people. If you invite somebody to your house, you have to prove your tea is not poisonous. You have to drink by yourself and prove you're still alive, then give to your guest. I think that's very different. It's very different culture.
Kayla: I love that. It's like the origin of "cheers".
Zora: Next time you come to our hometown, if the host just drink the tea by themselves, don't think that's rude. That's not rude. Actually, they want to tell you, "This tea is totally good to drink and not going to kill you."
Kayla: [chuckles] Speaking of the dangers of tea.
Zora: Yes. [chuckles]
Kayla: [chuckles] That's so interesting. Awesome. Is there anything else you wanted to share about your teas at Yuyun or tea culture, or anything?
Michael: I think, also, Zora, you have the three-course tea?
Zora: Yes. It's a ethnic group based in our hometown. I'm not sure you know that before because China has 56 different ethnic groups, and Han is the majority, 90% Chinese people are Han, and the 10% people are come from different minority ethnic groups. My hometown has 26 ethnic groups in China, which is the most, most area has different people. One group called Bai, that name means white color. They think white means pure. They do have a three-course tea as a ceremony. The first tea is bitter. The second tea tastes sweet. The third tea tastes full of aftertaste because it has spice, so it's a tiny bit spicy but also sweet. That means your life journey because in the first, your life might experience bitterness or a high up and low and the sweet. When you actually think about your whole life, it's full of taste. It's philosophy in tea.
Michael: I think each minority has their own different tea ceremony and different tea ceremony outfits too. It's like a huge culture behind Yunnan tea which is just, we want people to discover it. That's one of our biggest points as to why we specialize in Yunnanese tea.
Zora: In the very beginning, my whole business idea is to open a tea house, but also open a small tea museum, can access different tea selections come from my hometown, but because of COVID, everything has been stopped. We're going to launch our first exhibition in this July.
Kayla: Nice. Where can people find you and stay up to date about all the developments as they come?
Zora: You want to talk about more, Michael?
Michael: We have a website where you can find lots of information about Yunnan, Yunnanese tea, tea ceremony. I guess if you're in the UK you can buy the tea too. We will ship internationally eventually, but for now, I think we are going to stay in the UK. That's yuyunyunnan.co.uk. We'll put a link somewhere.
Zora: I think we forgot to mention the most important thing, is our brand name.
Michael: Oh, yes. It would be nice to talk about that just briefly.
Kayla: Go for it.
Zora: Yuyun is a Chinese word. It means "aftertaste". We want people who drink our tea have a good aftertaste. That's where Yuyun come from.[chuckling]
Michael: Very simple, yes.
Zora: Yes, very simple.
Kayla: That's great. That's a great place to end, I think. Hopefully, people will get to try the teas and have a lovely aftertaste.
Kayla: All right. Thank you, guys, so much for coming and having this chat.
Michael: Thank you for having us.
Zora: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Michael: Pleasure to talk to you.
Kayla: You too.