Our Story by Ed Eisler, JING Founder
People & Places
I feel grateful for many things. In particular, I feel very grateful to my mum for her vegetable garden because, even before I learnt to speak, I saw how much of the food my family ate was grown – where it came from and the role of people in making it.
For tea drinkers across the globe, that connection with how, where and by whom tea is grown has largely been lost. Yet, in countries where the connection has survived, the unique places and people that produce distinctive and characterful teas are widely celebrated. The first time I went to China, I truly understood the value tea can hold within a culture: I knew it could be so much more than a commodity in a kitchen cupboard. I started JING because I wanted to share this experience of tea in all its glory.
JING exists to bring the most fulfilling tea drinking experience to people around the world. That experience is tied up in the quality of the tea’s flavours and aromas – its distinctive character, which in turn depends on where the tea came from, and the skills and culture of those who made it.
Ultimately, great tea is a simple pleasure that depends on people and nature working together in harmony. From garden to cup, it’s about amazing tea leaves, lovingly produced in unique environments; packaging that keeps those leaves at peak freshness; and teaware that gives people at home an easy way to fully appreciate the character and natural purity of their tea.
Some of the producers and their gardens of our Ali Shan, Red Dragon, Dragon Well and Shimen Green Mountain tea.
I didn’t get a taste of high quality, single origin, loose leaf tea until I was travelling at 16 and stumbled across a beautiful Asian-style tea house. The owner introduced me to green teas from China and Japan. They tasted and felt so good – rich, naturally pure and accessible. There was no going back.
A few years later, I got to travel around China. I was looking for an ancient culture that was still living. At that time, travelling around the country was difficult and I couldn’t find anything beyond the obvious tourist traps. Slowly I began to see the ancient culture that existed in people and their everyday things: conversation, food, medicine and tea.
In China, teas are often handpicked and hand-processed by a single farming family that has lived on the same land for generations. Discovering this was huge for me: I could enjoy something delicious, made with respect for craftsmanship, culture, environment and good health.
I fell in love with Asia and its teas. After China, I visited Japan and Taiwan, then India and Sri Lanka – each time finding unique tea cultures that were true to generations of producers. As I went, I began to build a picture of JING: a range of single garden teas, produced by masters, stored well and served effortlessly.
Back in the UK, a ‘good cup of tea’ had come to mean a mass-produced tea bag featuring a characterless blend of countless different leaves from around the world. ‘English Breakfast’ had long been sold on the basis of a rich colour and strength, but was utterly lacking in character and flavour.
The commoditisation and blending of tea had made it more accessible, but really cheap. This came with a different kind of cost: the race to capture the market in countries where black tea had become popular left consumers with a poor drink and many producers on a path to little or no profit.
This was a far cry from what I experienced in the distinctive teas from high quality, single gardens in Asia. I decided I was going to challenge the way things were being done in the UK and shine a light on the single garden teas that I loved. I wanted to share my experience of being in the tea gardens, among wildlife and nature, learning from the masters that made these great teas. I wanted to show people tea’s immense variety of flavour, aroma, colour and texture – and the value of enjoying high quality tea at home.
At first, JING would be a departure from the familiar, but I believed the teas would speak for themselves. I was delighted when people began talking about the teas, the craft that produced them and the depth they experienced when drinking them. The number of people enjoying JING teas grew, with the cost of the teas reflecting their status as a higher-value product for consumers, producers and their communities. This is a true value chain.
From the start, I knew that if every cup of JING was going to be great, it would have to be the result of rigorous and thoughtful sourcing. Since 2004, we’ve searched extensively, building longstanding personal relationships, to find delicious teas that best embody the unique character and taste of their origin. We have shared the stories of the people that created them and shown our customers how to make and enjoy them.
As I look to the future, I want to continue sharing my passion for the simple pleasure of authentic tea. I also have to think about how we’re going to meet the next set of challenges that producers face. These include helping young farmers get off the ground and continue their culture and tradition of tea making; and doing more to help our partners and producers maintain or initiate the organic biodiversity of their tea gardens, while tackling the effects of climate change.
Overcoming these challenges means helping tea drinkers to enjoy all the benefits of distinctive, single garden tea. Because this is still the best way of helping producers and their environments to thrive. So that’s exactly what JING will continue to do.