American Volunteer Hugh and his Love for Chinese Tea

April 09, 2018


December 18th, in the tea art training room at Guizhou Forerunner College, Hugh, a volunteer from the States, shared his knowledge of tea making with GFC students.


                                                                  Hugh, sharing his knowledge of tea making with tea students


When he was in the States, like most others, he loved coffee. Hugh said: "If I didn't drink coffee, I would get a headache. I was addicted to it."


However, when one of his Chinese friends gifted him a box of tea. It was his first experience with tea, and he thought it was exotic. "It was a wonderful first experience and I wondered how tea is made." In 2004, Hugh, invited by a friend, came to Guangzhou. "Arriving in China furthered my interest in tea. Normally I would only buy tea leaves from supermarkets or stores. I asked different salesmen many times which provinces these teas come from and how it is made. Unfortunately, they didn't have a clear answer."


In Guangzhou, Hugh met a Chinese friend who gladly taught him about how to tell the difference between different teas and the history of tea making.


"I'd say he was my teacher, often making different teas for me to taste, showing me what makes a tea great by assessing its taste, color, etc."


In order to learn more about tea, he asked his friend who was going back to Anhui province for Spring Festival to bring him some tea sprouts so that he could plant tea himself.


"At first, I was excited, and started planting according to guides on the internet and books, but in less than two months, my tea plants died. So I bought some more on Taobao, but none of them survived either. So for a long time after that, how to plant tea became a huge confusion for me."


                                                          Hugh and his wife Crickett (center) became volunteers at GFC.


In July 2013, Hugh's wife Crickett came to GFC to see her friend who was volunteering at the time. During her visit, she found out that GFC has a tea school. She called her husband to tell him. Hugh was delighted upon receiving the news. In March 2014, after formal application, Hugh and Crickett became volunteers at GFC. Arranged by the college, Hugh taught the tea students English.


"I'm very grateful for GFC as a platform, so I can teach students English, and learn more about Chinese tea from them at the same time."



In October 2014, according to college arrangements, tea students departed for a two week training at a tea production facility. To help Hugh learn more about tea, the students invited him to join.


"I was more excited than even the students because now the confusion I had for years would finally be solved. During their training, I got up early to pick tea leaves with the students, and then process them. At first, I often made mistakes, but the students patiently corrected me and taught me. We often made tea 'till midnight. Though it was tiring, I finally learned the tea making process."


Mengjiang Yu, a GFC student, was like a teacher to Hugh in tea making.


"Mengjiang is the one who truly helped me appreciate and love Chinese tea. During our training, he took me to see the ancient tea tree in town, telling me its legend. I learned a lot.



Hugh Picking Tea Leaves 

Hugh and Stan in front of an ancient tea plant


After returning from the training center, Hugh found that though there were many trees and plants on campus,  there weren't any tea plants. So, he contacted logistics and hoped he could get a piece of land to plant some tea. Soon, the school approved of his initiative and granted a piece of land to his care for tea planting. Hugh took some students to buy agricultural tools from town.


"Many people in town were curious as to why a foreigner is buying hoes. I told them I plan to plant tea trees, and they couldn't believe it."


Soon, Hugh and tea students began planting them on campus.


Hugh and tea students plowing the land

Hugh learning to plant tea sprouts


In his teaching, Hugh arranged tea marketing English classes for the students according to their future job needs. Talking about daily teaching, Hugh commented:


"In Guangzhou, the first time I tried Duyun Maojian tea, I found it to be very pleasing. I asked the salesman where the tea was produced, he couldn't answer me. So now when I teach the students, I focus on teaching them how to introduce the tea, so customers can learn where different teas are from, how they are made, and what effects it has, all in English."

                                                                                                        Hugh teaching students how to sell tea in English in a marketing class

                                                                                                               Hugh teaching students to tell the history of tea in his class


When asked about why he loves Chinese tea, Hugh said:


"In China, Tea is an important culture. In a serene environment, friends can drink and chat. Compared to beer or coffee, I prefer tea. Tea allows me to make many new friends."


                                                                                        Hugh taking international exchange students to a tea factory to learn about making tea


Now, Hugh has become a symbol for GFC tea college.


"Every time I go back to the States, I bring my friends some of our students' tea, telling them how it was made, with hope that my American friends will love Chinese Tea, too."


                                                                                                             Hugh and tea students