Verdant Tea

Rare Varietal Anxi Oolong Tasting Kit

Rare Varietal Anxi Oolong Tasting Kit

Regular Price $41.55 CURRENTLY OUT OF STOCK

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. Master Zhang's Rou Gui varietal bushes grow among Tieguanyin fields and wildflowers, and benefit from sweet mountain spring water. Rou Gui is famous for its rich cinnamon flavor, and it is a real treat to taste such strong, sweet steeping cinnamon notes in a modern rolled Anxi oolong. This spring harvest reminds us of the spice and complexity of wild Yunnan Yabao tea, but with a beautiful fresh quality.

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1985 Aged Se Zhong Oolong (25g)

Many of Master Zhang's oldest tea plants are 'se zhong' varietals, teas other than Tieguanyin that flourish in Anxi. Master Zhang's grandparents and forebears planted Ben Shan, Mao Xie, and other sezhong varietals on their high mountain peak above Daping decades ago. Master Zhang picked these leaves in 1985, carefully re-roasting this mixed se zhong harvest every year for almost ten years. The tea was allowed the tea to rest for another twenty years before this beautiful cache was released The deep, dark mineral notes and fruity sweetness of se zhong oolong become alluringly foresty, a great example of "yun" - the physical sensation of the tea in the throat and the lingering cooling electric aftertaste and texture that fine teas create. The longer this tea steeps, the more intense woody and cooling qualities it reveals.

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Ben Shan (25g)

Ben Shan varietal has a big, strong flavor full of all the fruit and bright florals we love in Tieguanyin. Ben Shan is so rich that it is often sold as Tieguanyin or blended into Tieguanyin varietal to make Tieguanyin taste more like Tieguanyin. Some of the oldest tea bushes on Master Zhang's high mountain field are Benshan varietal, planted by his grandparents. Benshan leaves open more quickly in brewing than Tieguanyin, with the biggest, boldest flavors in the first 1-3 steepings.

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Cai Cong (25g)

Master Zhang cultivates this rare Cai Cong (菜聪) varietal to encourage biodiversity on his high elevation plot in Daping, Anxi. His careful processing has brought out a surprisingly floral-fruit flavor in this tea along with deep osmanthus florals and a sweet, long aftertaste. The light oxidation of this tea's traditional finish complements the dessert-like flavors of Cai Cong with a buttery, creamy finish.

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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.

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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 >>

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