Verdant Tea

Ancient Oolong Craft: Tasting Revival Style with Master Zhang

Ancient Oolong Craft: Tasting Revival Style with Master Zhang

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This bundle includes four 25g bags of oolong tea for 100g total (20 sessions).

This special tea sampler highlights Master Zhang’s work to bring back an ancient oolong finishing technique - the Revival Style. This technique comes from years of research, travel and cultural exchange with other oolong communities, and extensive interviews tapping into the oral tradition to uncover the way that oolong was finished long before the modern rolled style that Tieguanyin is famous for.

In this kit, you’ll get to explore light roast, dark roast, aged, and varietal comparisons to see how the Revival Style brings oolong to life with deeper aromatics and more powerful texture and aftertaste, all while connecting with a rich tradition of craft that nearly died out over the last few hundred years.

The Revival Style takes more than twice as long to make as classic Tieguanyin thanks to the extended yaoqing process of turning and fluffing the leaves and the fact that so much has to be done entirely by hand, but the results are stunning - a half-twisted half-rolled style that Master Zhang describes as a Dragonfly shape.

 

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

This special tea sampler highlights Master Zhang’s work to bring back an ancient oolong finishing technique - the Revival Style. This technique comes from years of research, travel and cultural exchange with other oolong communities, and extensive interviews tapping into the oral tradition to uncover the way that oolong was finished long before the modern rolled style that Tieguanyin is famous for.

In this kit, you’ll get to explore light roast, dark roast, aged, and varietal comparisons to see how the Revival Style brings oolong to life with deeper aromatics and more powerful texture and aftertaste, all while connecting with a rich tradition of craft that nearly died out over the last few hundred years.

The Revival Style takes more than twice as long to make as classic Tieguanyin thanks to the extended yaoqing process of turning and fluffing the leaves and the fact that so much has to be done entirely by hand, but the results are stunning - a half-twisted half-rolled style that Master Zhang describes as a Dragonfly shape.

 

  Explore Anxi Revival Style Oolong teas: 

Original Wulong Revival (25g)

Master Zhang is a true innovator. He doesn’t make tea to follow trends. He experiments and takes risks to make tea better for the generations to come. This Original Wulong Revival uses the older Ben Shan varietal leaf and undergoes three times more careful hand turning and fluffing than modern Anxi oolong. For finishing, it is loosely rolled in the oldest style of oolong making that is half strip style and half ball, with many of the leaves more strip-style than rolled. Master Zhang describes the shape as a dragonfly. This hand processing and shaping yields a different tea - a genre of its own outside of Wuyi style, Guangdong style or Anxi style. The light roast is rewarding and brings out a unique savory sweet complexity we don’t see in other teas from Master Zhangl over the years, this tea has grown to be one of our very favorites!

Learn more about this tea >>

Full Roast Wulong Revival (25g)

Master Zhang’s classic Oolong Revival is full of deep rich cozy toasty overtones, enveloping the palate with a thick texture. This year, Master Zhang is complimenting all these cozy flavors with a deep, dark roast which caramelizes the sugars in the leaves and produces beautiful dark sweet dessert flavor to the forefront. As always, Master Zhang’s expert roasting preserves the vibrant fruity “core” of the tea without overpowering, a difficult feat to achieve after a full 24 hours straight of withering, turning and fluffing that is highly variable and dependent on each day’s specific weather.

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Original Tieguanyin Revival (25g)

This unusual tea is based on Master Zhang's ongoing research into early Anxi oolong teas with a half-rolled / half strip-style shape, and a very meticulous turning and fluffing process that goes further than most modern tea would. In this experimental offering, he applies this research to the Tieguanyin varietal and provides enough roast for a deep, rich aroma. The result is a very well-balanced tea full of toasted sweetness, delicious complexity, and a juicy, lingering aftertaste.

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Special Grade Rou Gui Revival (25g)

Master Zhang’s reserve designation is an almost impossible standard, requiring the perfect combination of high elevation rocky soil, cool stand-out weather during the growing season and on the picking and finishing days. Some years Master Zhang doesn’t designate a reserve or special grade for certain teas. It all depends on the final tea, which needs to satisfy a certain level of sweetness, a long lingering aftertaste, and thick balanced texture and evocative aroma. This reserve designation Rou Gui was hand finished using a very old, traditional technique that Master Zhang has been researching that involves three times the usual turning and fluffing and a difficult half-rolled half-twisted shape. The result is a textural sensation with a deep intensity.

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2003 Aged Wulong Revival (25g)

Original Wulong Revival is the result of years of research by Master Zhang on ancient oolong finishing techniques, a style between rolled Tieguanyin and fluffier Wuyi oolong. The unique finish gives this 2003 harvest aged tea a striking deep foresty flavor and sweet sparkling texture. While this tea was roasted every year for many years to control moisture and dial in the aging process, the tea is not deeply toasty. instead it expresses natural complexity in the same way an aged pu'er does.

Learn more about this tea >>

"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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