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Produced by masterzhang_farmerbadge  Master Zhang

At his workshop and family home in the peaks above Daping, Anxi, Master Zhang is constantly working on new projects, setting aside small parts of his harvests all year long each season to finish in small batches. While these harvests are often kept aside for Master Zhang to drink himself or age, he works each season to share these with friends and peers, colleagues and fellow tea masters in Anxi, Taiwan, Guangzhou and beyond.

Master Zhang calls these teas his little experiments, and this year-long work means he is always working to challenge himself, collaborate, learn and explore. These experiments usually do not make it to market without a special request or commission, and are generally never shared outside of Mater Zhang’s close personal network of trusted friends. The six teas in this tasting kit were hand picked by Master Zhang to share from his Autumn 2016 experiments, contrasted with his classic Tieguanyin oolongs.

Each tea is created with the same varietal (Tieguanyin), and taken together, the teas are a bold statement on the role of the tea master – the craftsman – and their responsibility to bring out the best in every tea.

 

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Taste Master Zhang’s Craftsman Collection

This invitation into Master Zhang’s workshop showcases a selection of teas that highlight the importance and perspective of the tea master during production. All but one is a “little experiment” from Master Zhang’s 2016 Autumn harvest: the Hua Xiang Qing Xiang Tieguanyin, Ming Hua Xiang Tieguanyin, and cozy Mi Xiang Tieguanyin. These three experiments are given context with Master Zhang’s classic Traditional Tieguanyin and Autumn Tieguanyin.

There is enough tea included to brew each selection five times, giving you a chance to explore different brewing methods and get to know the teas.

Six 25g bags of loose leaf tea are included for a total of 5.29 ounces (150g.) of tea or 30 brewing sessions.

 

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MING HUA XIANG TIEGUANYIN

“Ming Hua Xiang” literally describes tea flower aroma – the scent of camellia sinenses in bloom! The tea flowers blossoming around Daping village are an incredible and potent aroma, perfuming the fields in early autumn. Tieguanyin varietal has a unique marigold and honey aroma, and a dark floral quality. Master Zhang’s careful traditional processing preserves a beautiful green quality in this tea, a rich thick soybean-like flavor tempered by bright Chrysanthemum floral notes. A lingering pine flavor in the aftertaste makes this complex and satisfying over multiple steepings.

 

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MI XIANG DARK ROAST TIEGUANYIN

“Mi Xiang” is literally honey fragrance, and a few sips give credence to the name. In other finishing styles, honey usually takes a backseat to more powerful florals and fruit flavors in Tieguanyin, but Master Zhang here has brought out the subtle, thick and rich honeyed quality of Tieguanyin through his precise roast. We have so much respect for Master Zhang’s values in roasting tea. So many workshops will roast to impart heavy handed roast flavor, and in doing so, burn their tea and compromise its original integrity. Master Zhang roasts slowly and with perfect precision so that even a tea this dark tastes only of itself and not of roasted flavor. The result is a tea full of honey, bread and elderberry, a cozy delight in cold months.

 

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HUA XIANG QING XIANG TIEGUANYIN

“Hua Xiang” refers to the fact that Master Zhang picked and processed this Tieguanyin to bring out the most floral elements possible. Perfectly dialed-in hand turning and fluffing process help capture peak florals. A few movements too many or too few and the tea can go in a very different direction. “Qing Xiang” refers to the light oxidation and roast. Heat is only applied to this tea to stop oxidation and eliminate moisture, but not to change the flavor fundamentally. The result is a beautifully clean, sweet, and rich tea with potent florals. The juicy sweetness of this tea is a testament to the quality of the leaf and the skill of Master Zhang in his craft.

 

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TRADITIONAL TIEGUANYIN

Master Zhang excels at finishing his Traditional Tieguanyin. He works in a way to brings out the florals and strengthen them, allowing the green quality of the tea to shine through while providing a sweet and nuanced counterbalance through delicate roasting. This is the tea that Master Zhang grew up with and his greatest passion. This 2016 autumn harvest full of fruity lychee and aloe, toasted barley, violet, and a hint of jicama.

 

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AUTUMN TIEGUANYIN

Master Zhang is proud to be sharing true Tieguanyin varietal oolong, fed by mountain spring water and grown without pesticides or fertilizers under the high mountain mist. Most Tieguanyin sold is actually Benshan or other similar varietals which lack the long drawn out aftertaste of Tieguanyin. The biodiversity of Daping and the mountain soil lend intense complexity and depth of flavor to this tea.

 

Tasting Recommendations

 

Master Zhang brews his teas with a very simple gaiwan and tastes out of small jingdezhen porcelain cups. His set up is austere, but his brewing is careful. He respects every one of his teas equally no matter the price, and brews every tea with spring water.

He uses a smaller four ounce gaiwan and 5 grams of leaf for a more potent brew and 200° F water. He will do one rinse before steeping his tea for about eight seconds per infusion. He passes the gaiwan around for his guests to smell and look at the leaves expanding between each infusion, and drinks tea slowly and with a light heart.

 

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