My name is So-Han Fan, I'm the founder of West China Tea and I'm making this fundraiser on behalf of Li Shulin of Nannuo Mountain. Li is one of my oldest and closest friends in China. He is the farmer behind nearly a quarter of all of our teas and I consider him family.
Last Friday night, while he was visiting relatives in Mengku, his house burned down. His wife, Cai, was at home at the time and was thankfully able to get out without being injured. While there were no human casualties, Li lost his home, his business, and all of the tea he had set aside over the 21 years he has been producing his own tea.
I’m reaching out to you now to ask you to help Li and his family get back on their feet. If you’ve ever had any of our Pu Er, including Rain Butter, Dragon Bro, Groundbreaking Brick, Doom Roy, Immortal Dew, Wild Purple, as well as Ultraviolet, Gamma Ray, Moonlight White, Ya Bao, Buddha Fragrance, Sticky Rice, Red Tara, and many more, then you know Li Shulin as well through his tea.
Many of those teas - all the aged ones - are now extinct, surviving only in small amounts in our stock room in Austin. For those of you familiar with Pu Er tea, you know that it is aged tea that increases in value over time. In his house, Li had tea that he had made and stored going back to the year 2000, when he left a 30-year career at the Menghai tea factory to become an independent farmer. That tea was his retirement fund - he estimates that he lost several million yuan worth of tea in that fire, besides the loss of his house, belongings, and tea processing equipment.
Besides being our most prolific and closest tea farmer, Li is also a grandfather, an Akha ethnic minority, and his tea business is the sole source of income for his household (besides a part-time noodle kitchen which was also lost in the fire). He was unfortunately not insured, but he does have an apartment in Menghai where he can stay, so he isn’t homeless.
I think of - and refer to - Li and his wife Cai as my “China parents”, and our relationship has always been like a child and their parents. They have always encouraged me in my business from the very beginning, have sold me tea at undermarket prices for the past decade, and given me tea on credit. Now it is up to me and West China Tea to come through and help support him and his family in their time of need.
We, the Western tea community, seldom get the opportunity to interact with Chinese tea farmers directly. They largely don’t speak English, and don’t generally spend a lot of time on live streams and content production. The farmers we work with at West China Tea are largely well-established and self-sufficient, often with generational customers whose parents knew their parents, and it isn’t often that we are called on to aid and support them. We’re reaching out to our tea community to ask for help for someone who has given so much to our company, our community, and to tea culture in general through his amazing tea.
We’ve set our goal at $10,000 - not enough to replace his tea and his house but enough for him to get new tea equipment and build a workshop so that he can start making tea and generating income.
Whether you’ve had his tea or not, please help us in supporting one of our community through this tragedy. We often spend so much time talking about tea community here in the West that we forget about the community members without whom none of this would be possible - the tea farmers and tea masters who make the tea that we love so much.
Thank you all for reading, sharing, and donating. Our goal is to raise the money for Li to replace his equipment and build a workshop so that he can be ready for the fall tea harvest. We’ll continue updating this campaign as events develop.