Verdant Tea was founded to advocate for the small family tea farmers who devote their lives to making the best tea in the world. Our marketplace is tribute to these people- the He Family, Master Zhang, the Qianjiazhai Zhenyuan Dongsa Farmer’s cooperative, Mrs. Li in Dragonwell, the Weng Family, the Li Family in Wuyi, Huang Rui Guang and his family, and Xingyang Workshop. We exist to tell their stories and share their work so that they can thrive and continue sharing their craft for generations to come.
The He Family in Laoshan Village, Shandong produces every one of our teas from Laoshan. From the sweet, beany Laoshan Green Tea to their chocolatey Laoshan Black Tea and innovative new Laoshan Oolong teas, everything is hand-picked and processed. Each tea is a labor of love and dedicated, passionate perfectionism on the part of the entire family.
Pioneers and community leaders in Laoshan Village, the He family was one of the first to plant tea on the misty ocean-facing slopes of the Taoist Holy Mountain they call home.
We are proud to share the He Family’s tea every season, and we are dedicated to spreading appreciation for their craft while sharing their unique and innovative teas with the rest of the world.
Huang Rui Guang was born in Yang Mei village of Feng Huang in 1946.Huang Rui Guang likes to say that one love is enough in life, and his is tea.
An accomplished technical master of tea, he is affectionately called a ‘modern tea sage’ by many because of his lifetime of cultivation in the skills of planting, processing and tasting tea. He is admired for his ability to appraise a tea simply by looking at the color and appearance of the leaf. With one smell and one sip of a tea, he will tell you exactly where a tea grew, what conditions it experienced, and the quality or shortcomings of the craft used to process the tea. From examining the leaves, he will make recommendations to farmer and craftsmen to improve their process.
In 1982, Huang Ruiguang’s tea won top tea in the country at the Hunan Changsha Conference and Competition. His unprecedented score of 99.8 was the highest rated tea in all of China. In 2012, he was conferred the title of a recognized Cultural Treasure, and named true ‘heir’ to the craft of Dancong production by the city government of Chaozhou.
Today, Huang Ruiguang has his own 30 mu tea fields. With his lifetime experience in cultivating the craft of tea and the skill of tasting, he is working to pass on to his two sons Wei Ming and Zhen Ming – both of whom have won top national ranks as technical masters, and have attained high levels of tasting and production skill.
Mrs. Li has been growing Longjing Village’s famous Shi Feng (Lion’s Peak) Dragonwell green tea her entire life. She began learning from her father, one of Dragonwell’s preeminent tasters and graders, as soon as she was old enough to talk.
Despite her family’s pedigree, Mrs. Li is still one of the most warm and welcoming people that you will ever meet, and a cup of her Shi Feng Dragonwell Green tea will help you to understand why Dragonwell is so often praised as China’s most famous tea.
We are honored for the opportunity to share Mrs. Li’s fine Dragonwell Tea on her behalf each year with tea lovers around the world.
Master Zhang’s thousand-meter-high terraced peaks above Daping in Anxi, Fujian are one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Mountain streams feed the bright green tea bushes, protected from the sun by mist. Master Zhang and his neighbors in Daping practice traditional organic farming, and it’s no surprise to see native grasses, organic canola, and wildflowers growing among the hedges of tea.
Master Zhang’s vision for pure hand-picked and hand-processed high mountain Anxi oolong is strong and unwavering. His biodiverse fields place Daping’s native Mao Xie varietal side-by-side with Anxi’s famous Tieguanyin and more unusual cultivars from Ben Shan and Jin Guanyin to Qilan, Rou Gui, Da Dan, Zi Mudan, and more. His recognized dedication to collaboration, awards for transparancy, and constant innovation ad experimentation are an example to generations of tea farmers, new and old.
When we met the Li family of Tongmu (near Xingcun), we were thrilled by every tea they crafted. Verdant Tea founder David Duckler went to school with Li Xiangxi at Qingdao University; since graduating, Li Xiangxi has gone on to open her own school of rural Wuyi-style tea ceremony.
Li Xiangxi’s family works together in Tongmu applying their incredible skill at roasting to their spring-fed high mountain tea. Their proceeds go to teaching rural tea ceremony at Li Xiangxi’s school, and working to preserve the wild tea bushes on the mountains above their family home in Tongmu.
We’re proud to source all of our Wuyi oolong and black teas directly from the Li Family, supporting their dedication to education and the preservation of rural techniques and traditions.
Mr. Weng and his family are young, passionate tea farmers growing white tea on the misty peaks outside Hulin above Fuding. The Weng Family’s plot is beautifully situated with old terracing and plants between twenty and fifty years old, all Da Bai varietal. On one side of the mountaintop are curving terraced fields, and on the other side is a grove of wild bamboo interspersed with wildly-germinated white tea bushes allowed to grow unrestrained alongside bamboo.
The Weng family is dedicated to sustainable agriculture, forgoing artificial pesticides and fertilizers by growing soybeans and canola for greater biodiversity and natural insect management. Their collection of white teas include fresh harvests of both budset and full leaf teas from spring and fall alongside a growing collection of carefully aged white teas.
The Zhenyuan Dongsa Farmers’ Cooperative brings together several families and craftsman across the stretches of wild tea forest in the Qianjiazhai region of Mt. Ailo National Forest Preserve. The altitude is 1800-2500 meters depending on where you stand. Their oldest tea tree is about 1700 years old, though most are between 100 and 500 years old.
Members of the cooperative work together to preserve the old tea trees (alongside native wild near-relatives like Camellia Crassicolumna) and to share knowledge and techniques.
The cooperative’s hand-picked and wild-foraged pu’er and Yunnan black tea capture the essence of Qianjiazhai’s unique terroir, and help you understand why Yunnan’s aged teas inspire so life-long love and devotion in so many.
Xingyang is a small team near in Pu’er city that work with farmers in Honghe, Sanjiacun, and occasionally several other mountain villages in Xishuangbanna. They are the first and only collection we feature where the picking and production are done by different people. We reached out to Xingyang because their point of view, their skill, and their integrity are singular among pu’er blenders.
Most pu’er brands are truly just brands,: pretty labels slapped on to white-label cakes made to spec. Xingyang takes blending seriously. Like a small, independent scotch blending house, or a small wine maker, they have close relationships with a handful of farmers and stockpile maocha to suit their needs. They have a small tightly curated collection of “recipes” that strive for a specific and ideal flavor. To achieve this flavor, Xingyang presses cakes from a blend of maocha perfectly suited to create a complex and complementary integrated whole, and also experiments with producing large leafed organic Yunnan black tea and green tea.
Wang Yanxin is a fierce advocate for small family farming, working with her farmer friends from Yunnan to Shandong to develop entirely new kinds of tea, help them establish cooperatives, and bring their teas to a wider market.
She specializes in seeking out wild picked teas in Yunnan’s Lancang river valley, but has also begun passionately exploring modern black teas in recent years, even developing her own new boundary-crossing black tea: Yu Lu Yan Cha.
Her intense honesty and strong opinions make her a true force in Qingdao’s tea markets. Her memory for a tea’s taste, texture and aroma is legendary. We’re proud to call her our friends, and honored to number her – alongside Wang Huimin and Wei Wei Ren – one of our first teachers and tea mentors.