The first tea imports are dated 1800 in our files, from an American dealing company specialised in rare teas, Strobel & Martini, established in Bordeaux ( South West of France ) : we bought some Sou-Chong ( bought itself in Canton / Guandong , the main Chinese city for tea business at that time ) and after the Blocus ( 1803 - 1814 ) when designing our new shop, tea was immediately introduced ( our teas cases are Historic monument and among the oldest tea pots set ).
The oldest advertisement we have – dated 1828 - in the name of “ D&G Teas shop” offered a comprehensive selection of blends, some green teas, in fact the firsts imported by France, not coloured ( as some of them were to match English tastes colourful ) as Imperial ( first crop on three years old tea trees, the bud only was not exported, but some “one and a bud” were exported), Hyson ( April new buds ) or Gun Powder, by ship or by caravan, some red teas as Congou ( sometimes called Congo ), Souchong and Pecco ( or Pekoe, meaning the very young leaf of the April flush before it unwinds ), but also some smoked teas as Lapsang Souchong. But we have almost never imported and retail Oolongs teas, in fact too far from French taste.
But D&G offered very soon “caravan” teas, that is to say Chinese teas not shipped by sea but carried by Bactrian camels laden with chests of teas, through China western steppe and Gobi desert until Russia . The caravan teas were far more better than the sea teas, so more expensive ( from 20 to 50% ), having not bear months in the sea humidity. We had a dealer at Nijni-Novgorod, Yusopov who was also the official dealer of Tsars Alexander the 1st and Nicolas the 1st. He provided us with the highest quality as some white teas from Fujian Province and Imperial teas, nature as Anji tea or delicately perfumed as Imperial Jasmine teas.
The caravan source was and remained for years the best choice for green teas. Before the opening of the Suez canal in 1869, it took six month by sea to reach West Europe from Canton ... during these semester immerged in sea humidity, the green teas spoilt, becoming less and less green and more and more oxidised ( red / black ).But it was also through Russia that we imported the first “ Goût Russe”
( always in French : meaning Russian taste ) tea, in fact introduced in Russia by the caravans who had the old custom to boil tea with citrus peels ( Tang Dynasty way ) but exported to Europe only after the 1917 Russian Revolution, becoming immediately a challenger of the well know English Earl Grey tea.
On the eve of the second half of the XIXth century, Jules Cuvelier, established for more than 20 years in British India, working as agronomist in tea plantations allowed D&G to import up to the first World War nice red teas because of the nets he succeeded to built:
- as early as 1854 the first Assam teas as Bamonpookri( known at the very beginning Paho ) ;
- as early as 1855 the first and best Darjeeling gardens as Jungpana and Himalayan Rose, only “two and a bud” from April Flush and high grown that is to say coming from plantation above 1300 meters above sea level ;
- as early as 1876 the first Ceylan teas as Galabooa and Somerset, gardens originated from Dimbula area.
As to Darjeeling and Assam we imported - and still retail - only tea originated from plantations with at least 75% of Camellia sinensis (Chinese tea tree ) and less than 25% of Camellia assamica
( specie originated from Assam mountains, less tasty ).
In fact, as for cocoas, D&G has always tried the new gardens to offer to its customers premium new teas. So, we have begun to retail Japanese Sencha and Matcha green teas no later than Japan opened its doors to foreigners in 1868.
Because D&G was very aware of the last improvements in packaging, we marketed individual cotton tea bags from 1857, proposing a D&G Selection of Chinese black teas, 2 grams per bag for one cup.