Verdant Tea

Exploring Anxi with Master Zhang’s Oolong

Exploring Anxi with Master Zhang’s Oolong

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

Zhang Rongde has devoted his life to creating a sustainable biodiverse future for Daping Village, travelling the world to study with master of every tea region and returning to Daping with a vision to bring Tieguanyin and other local varietals to a new level. His tea fields benefit from sweet mountain spring water, ample natural forest cover, rich wildlife and perpetual high mountain mist protecting delicate leaves from the sun.

This collection has been put together as the ultimate introduction to Master Zhang’s craft and the natural beauty of tea from the Daping microclimate. You’ll be able to taste Master Zhang’s award-winning and standard-setting Tieguanyin, Daping's famous Mao Xie, aged oolong tea and experimental new finishing styles. While Master Zhang brings out different aromatics in every tiny hand-finished batch, this collection will give you a full sense of the regions deep sweet minerality, thick intense backbone, and lingering sweetness.

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

Zhang Rongde has devoted his life to creating a sustainable biodiverse future for Daping Village, travelling the world to study with master of every tea region and returning to Daping with a vision to bring Tieguanyin and other local varietals to a new level. His tea fields benefit from sweet mountain spring water, ample natural forest cover, rich wildlife and perpetual high mountain mist protecting delicate leaves from the sun.

This collection has been put together as the ultimate introduction to Master Zhang’s craft and the natural beauty of tea from the Daping microclimate. You’ll be able to taste Master Zhang’s award-winning and standard-setting Tieguanyin, Daping's famous Mao Xie, aged oolong tea and experimental new finishing styles. While Master Zhang brings out different aromatics in every tiny hand-finished batch, this collection will give you a full sense of the regions deep sweet minerality, thick intense backbone, and lingering sweetness.

  Explore Anxi with Master Zhang's teas: 

2023 Spring 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.

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Yun Xiang Tieguanyin (25g)

"Yun" is a complex concept. While it can be literally translated as “charm," the yun of a tea is more than simple appeal – yun is what makes the tea powerful and lingering beyond the common concept of aftertaste. Only the finest teas have a perceptible quality that would be described by professional Chinese tasters as yun. While there is no complete agreement on how to put "yun" into words, we notice a light cooling sensation and a tingling almost electrical texture on teas that have yun. This feeling builds up with every sip, making subsequent steepings more and more commanding. Master Zhang creates this through careful charcoal roasting over several long sessions and many days, relying on his experience and senses to get the finish perfectly right.

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Autumn Special Grade Tieguanyin (25g)

Master Zhang takes his Special Grade designation seriously. In order for a batch to be set aside as Special Grade, it has to meet an incredibly high standard of sweetness, a long lingering aftertaste, and thick balanced texture and evocative aroma. It takes the perfect combination of high elevation rocky soil, cool stand-out weather during the growing season and on the picking and finishing days. In the autumn it is even rarer to get these perfect windows, so we are excited to be sharing this harvest once again this fall. This extremely limited special grade Tieguanyin was hand-picked and hand finished over an exhaustive day and a half fluffing and turning process to bring out deep intense florals and creamy texture. The true flavor of the Tieguanyin varietal is preserved with Master Zhang’s expert green finish.

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2000 Aged Tieguanyin (25g)

Master Zhang is making some of the finest Tieguanyin in the world. Based in Daping village at the very highest peaks of Gande, Anxi. His terraced fields are overgrown with wildflowers, and fed by naturally sweet and clear mountain spring water. Master Zhang rarely releases such mature aged Tieguanyin, but when he does, the result is intensely rewarding. The slow and subtle roasting and aging process adds deep lingering spice to the Tieguanyin florals.

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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.

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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.

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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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