We got up bright and early expecting to meet Wang Huimin at the bus station after her long trip from Xiamen, but got a call from her saying that the bus had been delayed until 5PM. Poor Wang Huimin spent more time getting from Xiamen to Qingdao than we did from Minneapolis!

Of course, we went straight to the tea market with our extra time and drank six different shu pu’ers, including one from Long Yuan Hao workshop, the same company that makes our 2004 Yiwu. Unfortunately Wang Yanxin only has 40 cakes total, meaning that I will be hard-pressed to get more than 10 cakes for Verdant Tea. Still worth it though. One of my favorite shu pu’ers I have tasted. I think there is magic going on at Longyuanhao workshop.

Next, I brought up a mysterious black tea sample that Wang Yanxin sent us a month or two ago, upon which she wrote “I made it myself.” If it had been Laoshan tea, I would have understood. Wang Yanxin goes to Laoshan every week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she loaned a hand when needed. Instead, this tea was actually grown by a farmer friend of hers in Henan. Apparently, people are so crazy about Xinyang Maojian (no relation to Xingyang Pu’er) that they will only buy the stuff made from the wiry buds. Wang’s friend had nothing to do with all the good leaves from his harvest. In many cases, the leaves have a deeper flavor, but because they are not as sweet, they are undervalued.

Wang Yanxin told him to put the full five hundred pound harvest in a truck and drive it up to Laoshan. She and her friend in Laoshan did a bunch of roasting experiments with the leaves until they got it just right, and hand processed the whole batch as a black tea. It is so exciting to hera about this kind of innovation happening. It is very promising for the future of tea to know that delicious and incredible new kinds of tea are being discovered every day.

As the day was winding down, I remembered a question from the vendor hangout page to ask Wang Yanxin, “how did you get into pu’er?” Here is a basic translation of her story:

“I always knew that I wanted to get into tea. At first I would drink lots of green tea and Tieguanyin, but unfortunately I don’t really have the strongest stomach. Drinking tea all day every day kind of goes with the job. At first, I was worried, but then I read more about pu’er and its unique benefit of settling the stomach. Originally I didn’t really like pu’er. I think that ended up working to my advantage, since I didn’t let my taste buds get biased by the big brand names before I was ready to taste everything professionally. At first, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I just drank pu’er because it is healthy. But the more I drank, the more I realized that some pu’er seemed healthier then others. The really cheap stuff didn’t settle the stomach. It just made things worse. That made me notice the taste, texture and aroma differences. Suddenly, I was looking at this staggeringly huge world of tea and found myself falling for it. I got on a bus to Xishuangbanna. Seeing the landscape where pu’er grows wild sealed the deal. Getting that connection back to the earth, seeing that pu’er comes from real trees, I knew that I wanted to devote my time to truly understanding it. Since I didn’t know all about Menghai, Xiaguan etc back then, I just bought tea from every farmer, and every company willing to meet with me and tried them all. Some were terrible. Many were mind-blowing. They made the big brands seem so boring, so tame. I am still learning even today. That is why I can keep loving pu’er. It is too deep to exhaust, it is always changing, always growing.”

15 Responses to “China Trip Day Four”

  1. Charlotte

    Thank you for sharing Wang Yanxin’s story! It’s always interesting to learn how people get into their trades and hobbies like that.

    The pu’er from Long Yuan Hao and the mysterious black tea, what were they like?

      • Yes- Wang Yanxin will tell you bluntly- low quality pu’er is poison. It upsets the stomach and makes you sick. Only high quality pu’er has medicinal properties, and the older it is, the better it settles the stomach. I am paraphrasing from a video interview I have of her. Hopefully I can get translate it and put it up in the coming weeks.

  2. Jim Mincin

    Very cool article, David! I’ve been trying to get my dad into drinking tea, but he is a die hard coffee drinker 🙁 I will try though to appeal to him through the stomach settling effects of puer. I have so many different teas that I never really drink the same one day to day, so I don’t think I’ve experienced the full benefits of sustained puer drinking.

    I was wondering if there was a difference between sheng and shu puer, as to which one settles the stomach more? Or if they are about the same?

    I was also wondering what kind of flavor profile the “mystery tea” has? Considering it was a 500lb harvest, I was wondering if you may bring any back? Ill still be on the lookout for a gaiwan on the “teawares” page, the 12 piece set was tempting, but much more than I would need! Congratulations to whoever purchased the set, it was very cool looking, and also something I could see passed down from generation to generation!

    Of course, I’m most interested to see new teas become available, lol I’m like giddy! Hopefully no new teawares came and went as I write this post!!

    Best wishes,
    Jim Mincin

  3. Lisa Nankivil

    Hi David and Lily, seeing this picture of Wang Yanxin brewing amazing teas and telling stories takes me back to the tastings I was lucky enough to attend with you in China over two years ago. I am straight up jealous! How different the markets were in different cities, and every shop had a distinct vibe and personality. The chemistry of course included what we brought to the table as well. Through your unabashed love of tea, sensitive palate and language skills we earned the right to taste great teas. As a complete novice I learned so much about the etiquette and dance between the purveyor and taster. The teas were revealed in a process that was mutually satisfying. While it was undeniably a market the unveiling of special teas didn’t have much to do with money, it felt like sharing a gift. Wang Yanxin’s smile reminds me how exciting it was to build a relationship around a common passion with a complete stranger in a matter of hours. Please greet all of your friends for me!

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