Verdant Tea

Rare Varietal Anxi Oolong Tasting Kit

Rare Varietal Anxi Oolong Tasting Kit

Regular Price $50.25 $45.22
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This bundle includes four 25g bags of oolong tea for 125g total (25 sessions).

With one of the highest elevation, most pristine perfectly-situated plots for Tieguanyin in the world, it would make perfect sense for Master Zhang to devote every inch of land to this famous and in-demand varietal. Yet, Master Zhang does the opposite. Over the last decade, he has reclaimed the majority of his Daping mountainside for bamboo, evergreens and wildflowers. The precious rocky terraces he has left, carved into steep hills, he devotes not just to the famous Tieguanyin, but to dozens of rare, unknown varietals.

Master Zhang fosters these tiny groves of rare tea to preserve biodiversity and have a local “seed bank” of sorts, allowing hearty individual tea bushes to grow and thrive in Daping so that other farmers and colleagues could grow new plants from cuttings, and study the way their famous terroir changes with each varietal.

The benefit for all of us is getting to dive deep and experience rare out there flavors, textures and aromas- all unique expressions of Master Zhang’s craft and terroir. Every tea in this kit expresses the "core" sweet minerality of Daping, but from unique and incredible perspectives not often tasted in a region so dedicated to Tieguanyin.

This bundle includes five 25g bags of oolong tea for 125g total (25 sessions).

With one of the highest elevation, most pristine perfectly-situated plots for Tieguanyin in the world, it would make perfect sense for Master Zhang to devote every inch of land to this famous and in-demand varietal. Yet, Master Zhang does the opposite. Over the last decade, he has reclaimed the majority of his Daping mountainside for bamboo, evergreens and wildflowers. The precious rocky terraces he has left, carved into steep hills, he devotes not just to the famous Tieguanyin, but to dozens of rare, unknown varietals.

Master Zhang fosters these tiny groves of rare tea to preserve biodiversity and have a local “seed bank” of sorts, allowing hearty individual tea bushes to grow and thrive in Daping so that other farmers and colleagues could grow new plants from cuttings, and study the way their famous terroir changes with each varietal.

The benefit for all of us is getting to dive deep and experience rare out there flavors, textures and aromas- all unique expressions of Master Zhang’s craft and terroir. Every tea in this kit expresses the "core" sweet minerality of Daping, but from unique and incredible perspectives not often tasted in a region so dedicated to Tieguanyin.

  Explore Anxi with Master Zhang's teas: 

Anxi Rou Gui (25g)

Rou Gui is better known as a roasted oolong from Wuyi, famous in Wuyi for its intense and aromatic cinnamon flavor. Master Zhang's Rou Gui varietal bushes grow among Tieguanyin fields and wildflowers, and benefit from sweet mountain spring water. Master Zhang's dark roast on this unique rolled Anxi Rou Gui brings out not just rich cinnamon spice, but also dessert-like complexity and aftertaste.

Learn more about this tea >>

2023 Qing Xiang Wulong Revival (25g)

This beautiful experimental tea from Master Zhang brings together the deep complexity and lingering aftertaste of his full day turning and fluffing process required for Revival style, and the luscious sweet floral aromatics of Ben Shan varietal. Master Zhang’s Ben Shan bushes were planted by his grandparents on some of the highest slopes of the family’s mountain plot above Daping Village. Their deep roots take in water from a sweet mountain spring running under the rocky soil, bringing big texture and lingering sweetness to compliment the intensive finishing. The “dragonfly” shape unfolds beautifully in a gaiwan over many steepings.

Learn more about this tea >>

Anxi Ba Xian (25g)

Ba Xian is a rare cultivar pioneered from old rootstock in Fenghuang, Guangdong that yields beautiful textural depth, lingering sparkling complexity and rich aromatics given the right soil conditions and expert craftsmanship. Master Zhang is a colleague of famous Dancong pioneer Huang Ruiguang, and was able to transplant several old Ba Xian plants from Wudongshan to his own fields above Daping in Anxi. These plants have been left mostly unpicked and untrimmed for years, giving them a wild appearance. Master Zhang has picked a limited quantity of his Ba Xian to share. The result is packed with deep minerality, “yun” and creamy florals - a powerful and commanding tea.

Learn more about this tea >>

2021 Dark Roast Anxi Jin Suo Shi (25g)

Jin Suo Shi or "Golden Key" has been cultivated in Wuyishan on a small scale for almost one hundred years. In the last few decades Jin Suo Shi has been the subject of substantial research for its natural cold and drought resistance. Master Zhang cultivates a small grove of Jin Suo Shi, planted from seedlings picked up during his years of research on Wuyishan's growing and finishing techniques. The terroir of Daping and Master Zhang’s expert finishing bring out fruity notes in this uncommon cultivar, along with a building intense sweetness. This spring's harvest is finished with a dark roast.

Learn more about this tea >>

2005 Aged Wulong Revival (25g)

The “Dragonfly” style was the most traditional oolong finishing technique in Anxi before the rolled ball became popular. Master Zhang has been experimenting with this style for years as part of his work as a teacher and community leader for other farmers in Daping. Every year Master Zhang sets aside any interesting standouts for long term aging, which requires re-roasting every year to keep the moisture level as low as possible. The slow process of change brings out deep complexity and dark sweet undertones over many years. Master Zhang is sharing a portion of his personal reserve from early experiments for his revival project, giving us the chance to taste the first truly aged Revival Style Anxi oolong from Daping.

Learn more about this tea >>

2023 Dark Roast Liao Mian Ji (25g)

Master Zhang cultivates this almost unheard-of varietal as part of his commitment to achieving the rich biodiversity in his tea fields, all while maintaining zero-impact agriculture for his Original Ecological Preserve designation. Liao Mian Ji is a unique cultivar, full of deep dessert-like caramel undertones and rich nutmeg and spice. Master Zhang’s slow, full roast brings out even more sweetness in the aftertaste.

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"All tea tells a story, if we listen to what it is saying.

It is my responsibility to listen and not tell. I cannot force a tea into a certain flavor or aroma with craft. This is because true craft starts in the field, not the workshop. Good agricultural craft requires biodiversity, preserving the wildlife and natural forest cover, respecting the natural mountain springs, and keeping chemicals off of my tea and off of my neighbors’ teas.

If craft in the field is done right, craft in the workshop is about listening. It is about helping a tea become what it wants to be.

I have spent my life helping my village of Daping bring honesty and integrity to tea farming and oolong craft. We stand together against the factory farming that weighs so heavily on the Anxi lowlands ecosystems.

We are making Tieguanyin and countless other cultivars the way that they want to be made, in the environment where they want to grow. I invite you to taste our work for yourself and see."

- Zhang Rongde 张荣德

Our Home: Daping Village

our tea fields above the reservoir
Native plants and grasses grow alongside our tea

 

  • uniquely-balanced terroir of rock and sand for perfect mineral driven texture

  • high elevationmist and clouds protect tea from sun and insects

  • fully organic zero-impactfarming techniques for clean and nuanced tea

  • terraced fields absorb sweet mountain spring water

  • isolatedand remote high elevation plot is protected from lowland industrial tea farms’ impact

  • nn the process of certification for the intensive “Original Ecological Preserve” designation for true net-zero impact farming in harmony with nature

 

Our Family

 

Zhang Rongde was one of the first in Daping village to go to university.

He returned with an advanced degree in agricultural science and helped his community establish responsible chemical-free farming during the commune era. He comes from a long line of tea farmers, picking today plants established by his parents and grandparents.

After the communes were disbanded, Master Zhang was awarded the highest elevation plots in the region for his leadership role in pioneering sustainable, biodiversity-focused agriculture. He has won countless awards for his family’s teas, and still spends every day not only finishing his own teas but helping his neighbors improve their craft by visiting their workshops.

He is most proud not of his awards for quality, but his award for integrity, bestowed by his peers in recognition of his community leadership in transparency and for his work to tie pricing to a set of agreed upon standards of flavor, texture, aroma and aftertaste.

As a pioneer and community leader, Master Zhang is often travelling to far off regions to study other traditions. He has spent time studying and researching in Yiwu, Yunnan learning about old tree management and sun drying techniques, travelling to Japan and Taiwan, and studying in Fenghuang with Master Huang Ruiguang - exchanging Anxi oolong and Fenghuang oolong techniques and continuing to develop his ability to taste and evaluate.

Master Zhang and Hunag Rui Guang brew tea together
Zhang Rongde with his award recognizing his transparency & integrity
Wang Huimin and Master Zhang in the workshop

Our Tea & Craft

Zhang Rongde works with fresh tea leaves late into the morning
fresh picked leaves from a small experimental planting of "red heart" Tieguanyin

 

Tea requires hardship.

You cannot follow a simple protocol and expect to make great tea. You have to be willing to put aside everything to see a batch through to the end.

Often a single batch of oolong means over 40 hours in the workshop without sleep to get it just right, and that does not count the time in the fields.

My job really starts in the field, working actively to strengthen the natural ecosystem through my farming choices and also working to research, revive and propagate rare, new or nearly lost cultivars, all to increase biodiversity and secure a better future for oolong.

I grow dozens of different cultivars, some planted by my grandparents with old, deep rootstock. Each varietal has different picking times and different “ideals” in the field and in the workshop.

Every weather condition not only changes picking times but changes the way I fluff and turn the leaves to bring out their aroma, the way I roast them, the moisture levels I aim for; this all requires flexibility, determination, and humility in the face of nature.

Despite the hardship, I love what I do.

Tea is a collaboration between the skies, the earth and us, the people, that can create humbling beauty and complexity.

Seeking this complexity has inspired me to go beyond current styles in oolong and research lost styles like Original Wulong Revival.

Hear our vision for tea

 

Too much of the world’s “Tieguanyin” comes from big factory farms that have bought up most of lowland Anxi. These teas are passed off as the real thing because many retailers and importers do not know better.

I want to give anyone who loves tea the education and tools necessary to tell the difference. That is why I work with importer Verdant Teato tell my story. I hope you’ll take the time to learn about the place I call home and the way I work to craft my teas.

More interviews >>

Learn even more!