In the Longjuan region of Anxi, the Liu family grows Tieguanyin in the hills above their family home in the tiny town of Changtacun. Like most of their neighbors, the Liu Family focuses on Tieguanyin – Anxi’s most famous (and most popular) oolong tea varietal.
You might expect Tieguanyin’s fame to drive intense competition, creating pressure to focus on perfecting the market’s favorite traditional and modern rolled Tieguanyin oolong teas. However, in Longjuan and expecially in Changtacun, tradition and market pressures don’t drive the Liu Family to focus exclusively on these common, traditional techniques. There are just so many people turning out jin after jin of modern green or traditional rolled Tieguanyin. As Mr. Liu explains it – too many people, too much of the same thing. Instead, the Liu family has been exploring more uncommon styles, like the Tieguanyin black teas Mr. Liu has been making since just before his children (now with children of their own!) were born.
Though we’ve gotten to know Mr. Liu’s eldest daughter over the past few years in Laoshan (where Miss Liu has a shop next door to Qingqing He), we had the wonderful opportunity to meet the whole family this spring, visiting their fields and learning more about their unique point of view.
The Liu Family’s warm hospitality, and frank, open, humble perspective are as beautiful as the misty heights where their Tieguanyin grows. We are so excited to write more about our newest partners, and for the opportunity to translate interviews so that they can speak to you themselves. Look out for videos and more over the next few months – until then, we couldn’t wait to share some of our favorite photos with everyone now.
Most of the family’s plants are kept trimmed back for a younger, fresher, greener aroma and flavor. In late March, some of the mist-covered plants have just started to produce tiny, tender buds. These won’t be ready to pick for at least another month.
The Liu Family is rightly proud of the unique environment of the hills above Changtacun. The mist and light rain at this time of year keep everything cool and protected from too much sun. Reeds and natural bedding help keep moisture in the soil and protect from some insects.
Organic methods – from growing canola to allowing and encouraging native plants and spiders – produce teas with lower yields, but better quality than those sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. As Mrs. Liu’s youngest brother explains, this agricultural model requires more flexibility, but ultimately creates a more balanced and sustainable system.
Our collection from the Liu Family includes their Traditional Tieguanyin, as well as more unusual Tieguanyin-based black teas and oolongs: Tiegunayin Xiao Zhong, Tieguanyin Jin Jun Mei, and Tieguanyin Big Red Robe. We can’t wait to grow their collection with new spring harvest teas – look out for them after the spring harvests through April and May!
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