Single Origin Teas

My constant comfort and reliable friend: Charcoal Fire Roasted Tung Ting Tea

One of the many benefits to living in the Bay Area is the variety of unique cuisines we are privileged to enjoy: Brazilian, Ethiopian, Thai, Persian, Vietnamese and more. And as much as I appreciate the wide range of tastes and flavors, there is always that one cuisine that I come back to more often than the rest. Tea is exactly the same — thousands of different types, with infinite varieties of tastes, aromas, and complexities. Yet through years of tasting teas from all over China, Japan, Taiwan, India, and beyond, there’s one that I find myself reaching for time and time again. When you drink as much tea as we do, you begin to know your teas intimately — their personality, their character, how they make you feel. Each tea becomes like a friend. You reach out to different ones depending on the mood you’re in. Some you…

Notes from the Field: Tea Adventures Zhengshan Xiao Zhong

At Tong Mu Village, where the original Zhengshan Xiao Zhong was made and later became known as the Lapsang Souchong in the West. As foreigners are not allowed to go into this region, we had to get a permit, and Mr. Zhang, the villager who makes the tea, had to run around 11 times to get the government officials to agree. You see, from sheer effort alone, we know there are zero real Zhengshan Xiaozhong out there. So let’s let those teas continue to be called Lapsang Souchong- what the villagers don’t know, won’t hurt them right? They don’t know that people send smoke into low quality black tea to create that pine smoke flavor, or how possibly carcinogenic that is. They don’t know that although they make some 300-500 lbs a year for the entire village, worldwide there are literally a ton of Lapsang circulating the globe. Why did…

Notes from the Field: Tea Adventures Old Grove Shuixian

Into the Old Grove: visiting some of these knarly old trees in the region helps us understand that the best oolong varietals all originally came from these arbor type Shuixian trees with the Phoenix beak like leaves. Technically one can make any of the types of teas with any varietal, but the buds mature into larger leaves quickly and the larger, two leaves and a bud configuration with a high concentration of aroma oils is most suitable for oolong making. And the intense fragrances that the producers elicit from this varietal is unmatchable.

Single Origin Tea Producer: Mr. Lin of Che Shi, Anxi, China

Previously the village doctor, Mr. Lin — a trained physician from a family with generations of single origin tea producers and farmers — gave up his medical practice one day upon realizing that the tea-drinking villagers were just too healthy to need his services. He went back to tea farming with zeal, and decided that he would make his mark in other ways. Discontented with just having grown a true, high mountain, organic Tieguanyin oolong (most organic teas grow on low, flat areas), he has now ambitiously decided to build the first biodynamic tea farm on the highest hill top in his village. Home of the original Tieguanyin, the varietals that grow at his village are the original versions with the best aroma and body. Still not content to leave it at that, he cross hybridized and created a Yellow Gold Tieguanyin Hybrid called Gold Guanyin, which he made into…

Step into the world of Artisanal Teas

How do you step into the world of artisanal teas? Some of you have experienced whole leaf teas, thinking that as long as it is not fanning in a teabag, you must be drinking artisanal teas. Others feel that there must be a richer experience out there than just scented or blended teas. In reality, the quality level a tea must reach to be considered artisanal is comparable to a restaurant qualifying for the Michelin star. The depth of flavor and breadth of aroma that artisanal teas offer is more than the world of connoisseur wine or cuisine.  Learning how to enjoy this realm is actually quite accessible — just follow these tips and step right in: Choose single origin tea: The great terroirs of the world not only produce the most suitable tea plants,  but have been doing so for thousands of years, and the tea bushes have adapted…

Artisan Tea Producer: Mr. Zhang of Wuyi Mountain, China

So many of the artisans that we buy teas from are unique and deserve the utmost attention and respect. It’s difficult to choose just one to highlight. Mr. Zhang, of Wuyi Mountain, China, however, would definitely be the first. Wuyi ‘Rock’ teas were often State gifts from the Central Chinese government to other dignitaries, such as the President of the United States. As a result, the requirements of being an acknowledged artisan in a fabled tea producing region is quite high. Wuyi Mountain is a legendary scenic area of some of the most pristine waters and cliffs, with a unique terroir that commands some extreme requisites for growth. Mr. Zhang has tackled the job of mastering what is traditional farming and processing techniques. He has also created personalized equipment to make exceptional versions of Wuyi teas. Wuyi teas are arbor type Camellia Shuixian varietals that grow on just 10cm of soil, and…

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