Verdant Tea

An Introduction to Craft Black Tea

An Introduction to Craft Black Tea

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This bundle includes six 25g bags of craft black tea for 150g total (30 sessions).

The finest black teas in the world come from small family farms run with the sustainability and beyond-organic practices that can only come from one generation tending land that they will pass down to their children. The rich deep complexity of the finest black teas comes from stringent picking standards for the ideal tender bud and leaf mix, and from slow careful oxidation to bring out more nuance in small batches.

This tasting kit is an introduction to the incredible diversity of flavor that our partners offer with their black teas from malty chocolate-driven Laoshan Black from the north of China to traditional and complex Wuyi black teas. Through craft, varietal, and microclimate, our farmer-partners are proud to represent the best that China has to offer.

This bundle includes four 25g bags and five 5g bags of craft black tea for 125g total (25 sessions).

The finest black teas in the world come from small family farms run with the sustainability and beyond-organic practices that can only come from one generation tending land that they will pass down to their children. The rich deep complexity of the finest black teas comes from stringent picking standards for the ideal tender bud and leaf mix, and from slow careful oxidation to bring out more nuance in small batches.

This tasting kit is an introduction to the incredible diversity of flavor that our partners offer with their black teas from malty chocolate-driven Laoshan Black from the north of China to traditional and complex Wuyi black teas. Through craft, varietal, and microclimate, our farmer-partners are proud to represent the best that China has to offer.

An Introduction to Craft Black teas: 

Qianjiazhai Sun Dried Black Tea (25g)

This tea is wild-foraged by the Li Family of the Dongsa Cooperative within the Mt Ailao National Forest Preserve. The silvery buds and twisting golden leaves are picked from ancient tea trees between one hundred and eight hundred years old scattered between other evergreens, and wildflowers on the rocky mountainside. This labor-intensive tea to harvest is actually allowed to sun-roast and oxidize without applying heat in a wok. Because more moisture is retained in the leaf, this black tea is a fantastic candidate for aging like traditional sheng pu’er. Only a high-elevation remote place like Qianjiazhai can count on enough sunlight in the spring for this old but rare finishing technique. The result is a tea with the sweet malt of a black tea but the staggering complexity and herbaceous undertones of a sheng pu’er. A true standout!

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Qimen Maofeng Black Tea (25g)

The Cheng Family's Qimen Maofeng is picked in the mountains above Guixi Village, in the famous Huangshan region. The buds are delicate and downy, giving the tea a creamy almost fluffy texture thanks to Maofeng style finishing, setting this apart from the Cheng Family's classic Qimen Black. The twisting step gives their Maofeng a unique texture and a balanced flavor that is a classic, genre-defining combination of hot chocolate, marshmallow and cinnamon. The Yuqian harvest season is still very early in the colder mistier climate of Guixi where tea grows slowly, making this the perfect harmony of early spring texture and the later spring aftertaste and aroma.

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Yu Lu Yan Cha (25g)

This unique offering from Wang Yanxin is only possible because of her deep connections in both Henan and Laoshan. Her farmer friends produce extremely tiny bud Xinyang Maojian, a fine downy showstopper of a green tea. The second picking of the year is still all delicate downy buds, but tradition dictates only the first harvest is used for Henan's iconic buddy green tea. Wang Yanxin works to rush-ship fresh tea leaves the day they are picked from Henan all the way up to Laoshan Village, where they are allowed to traditionally oxidize in the sun to make a black tea, and then finished using Laoshan's extremely honed-in roasting and finishing techniques to combine the buddy steamed bun texture of Jin Jun Mei with the chocolatey goodness of Laoshan Black. This cross-province collaboration continues to prove that the world of tea is still full of innovators, pushing the boundaries of tradition.

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Jin Jun Mei Black Tea (25g)

Jin Jun Mei Wuyi black tea is one of the most labor intensive and demanding teas to produce. Fine Jin Jun Mei is made exclusively from tiny spring buds, and requires thousands and thousands of hand-picked golden buds to make a single pound of finished tea. The result is a downy tea with a thick full texture, and a beautiful elegance. Li Xiangxi's spring-fed tea grows out of rocky, sandy soil, yielding a rich mineral flavor true to Wuyishan's unique terroir.

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2023 Shifeng Dragonwell Black (25g)

For the fifth year in a row, Li Xiaoping is sharing her new Dragonwell Black Tea! She uses the same delicate early buds as her famous green tea, hand-picked from the slopes of Shi Feng, raised on sweet mountain spring water and covered in high elevation mist to protect against sunlight. After light twisting and rolling, this sweet, rich and distinctly mineral-laden tea is then set out in bamboo baskets and loosely covered for ten to fifteen hours and allowed to oxidize in the afternoon heat. This oxidation process brings out savory malty flavors in Li Xiaoping’s Dragonwell that show the unique texture of the region in a completely different light.

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Reserve Laoshan Gongfu Black (25g)

Laoshan Gongfu Black is one of the most difficult finishes for the He Family, requiring flat-pressing and hand-twisting and curling to achieve the final shape and finish. Mr. He saves this technique for his finest spring harvests, and this year, the He Family has reserved a small harvest of a very special grade of Laoshan Gongfu Black. The hand-twisted 'pine needles' are made with the buddy early harvest shade-grown picking, while the tea plants are still protected from the early spring cold of Laoshan's unique northern climate.

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Hua Xiang Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Wuyi Black Tea (25g)

While Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is usually smoked, the same leaf material and finishing technique can be used without the final smoking step. Hua Xiang means floral fragrance, referring to the natural but subtle floral notes in Xingcun Xiaozhong varietal that are brought out through the Li Family’s expert hand-processing. When smaller leaf material mixed with delicate buds is used, rich vanilla undertones can develop, accenting the savory nutty flavors. The main difference between this tea and a classic Wuyi Gongfu Black is that Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is not necessarily curled and twisted as thoroughly, giving it a more open structure suitable for incorporating that smaller bud and leaf mixture that wouldn’t work in the tight twists of Wuyi Gongfu Black, but both are very traditional calls back to the very earliest black teas in the world.

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Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Smoked Wuyi Black Tea (25g)

The earliest Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, (or Lapsang Souchong as it is commonly referred to in the West) was never deep-smoked. The smokiness was a natural and subtle addition that came from drying the leaves in a wok heated by pine wood. The smoke from the pine wood naturally mixed with the tea, creating a deeper and more foresty flavor that accentuated the tea's minerality. The Li Family preserves this old-school aesthetic with careful application of smoke from local resinous pine. The sweet, roasted quality of the smoke processing blends with the rich flavor of the tea to yield a dark fruity flavor, and bring front and center the mineral texture of the soil of Wuyi.

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Mi Lan Xiang Black Tea (25g)

Huang Ruiguang's family Mi Lan Dancong is picked only once a year from single trees that are not pruned back to encourage deeper roots & more robust flavor, year after year. His mountain plot and decades of work in improving agriculture techniques for the region have earned Huang Ruiguang's Mi Lan awards such as the recent 2015 Gold Medal at the Sixth Guangdong Tea Expo. This Mi Lan is allowed to naturally oxidize for over 24 hours before being carefully spread, baked and tumbled. The oxidation creates a deep rich black tea flavor, but Mi Lan varietal’s natural juicy floral honey flavor still comes through strong. 

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