Hi! I am a college student in the US, and I am currently developing a research project with which I will apply for grant funding to travel to Kunming for approximately 10 weeks this coming summer.
I have a strong interest in puer tea and have done much drinking and reading in the past few years. I do not have Mandarin background but I have been doing some self-teaching and plan to implement some language courses as a part of my project and continue classes when I return to campus.
I am planning to spend part of my time (maybe 4 or 5 weeks) at the Keats School, learning Mandarin one-on-one and taking advantage of the convenient housing and food package. The grant funding I am applying for does not favor 'study abroad' type programs or language learning, so I am de-emphasizing this element of my project. So, after my stay at the Keats School, I will need to arrange another form of housing and wanted to check for recommendations as far as affordable housing for students, preferably a single room.
And, more importantly, I would love any advice or guidance as far as how to engage with individuals working in the puer industry. I have contacts in the Western-facing vendor circles (expat Americans and Europeans who live part or all the time in Yunnan and source tea), but I am especially interested in meeting local workers. I want to focus on the dynamics of the puer market - topics like counterfeit tea, distribution routes, trends in sales and branding and the overall health and direction of the industry, how are things going since the boom 10 years ago, how are new Western markets affecting farmers and merchants in Yunnan. If anyone has any information or recommendations along these lines I would greatly appreciate it! Additionally, if there is anyone who will be around Kunming this summer from May-August and would be open to meeting to chat sometime, that would be great!
Any and all advice would be great, even just your favorite tea store, or a merchant you know who speaks a little English, etc.