Meet the Team

Qingqing He

He Qingqing grew up in Laoshan Village, Shandong, and is the third generation in the He Family to learn tea craft. Her grandfather was one of the first to plant tea in the entire area, and her father has expanded the tradition with strict organic farming practices and meticulous hand finishing techniques.

Qingqing met Verdant Co-Founders David and Weiwei at Qingdao University as a student, and that friendship grew into a deep partnership over the years. Now Qingqing owns and operates Verdant’s China offices in Laoshan with Weiwei, overseeing tea packaging, and  – of course! – helping her family at harvest time. She works with her parents to develop all new kinds of tea like Laoshan Osmanthus tea or Gan Zao Ye with the goal of building a new market for the entire village cooperative across the Pacific.

When Qingqing isn’t crafting tea or packaging tea of the month club, she has her hands full with her precocious daughter Jiaqi, who is already learning to taste and brew tea at age five. Qingqing hopes to visit the United States soon so that she can see the tea culture she grew up with gain new life and meaning across the world.

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Wei Wei Ren

Weiwei is an incredibly gifted taster and tea scout with family near Laoshan Village, and a father whose lifelong goal is to track down the best Tieguanyin in China.  Though she is young, Weiwei has the most formidable palate of anyone we know. Weiwei met David at Qingdao University and taught him most of his Chinese.

Now Weiwei is running Verdant’s Headquarters in Jimo, China near Laoshan in collaboration with Tea farmer He Qingqing. She is working hard every day to make sure that every package ships with the freshest tea possible. She checks every order to make sure they are perfect, excited to share tea across the world.

In her free time, Weiwei teaches Chinese to Korean students in Jimo, and hopes to travel to inner Mongolia to further her teaching experience.  Her favorite food is Mala Tang soup, and she will travel miles and miles to the smallest hole-in-the-wall restaurants to find the best.  She hopes to visit America soon and see the growing tea culture here.

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Wang Huimin

Wang Huimin met David back in 2007, teaching him everything he knows about tea ceremony and about tasting Tieguanyin. She grew up near Anxi, making tea an inseparable part of her life. Wang Huimin has run several successful tea businesses in China and knows small farmers across the country from her travels.

Wang Huimin now works directly with Verdant Tea by scouting tea wares and finding the most beautiful pieces in collaboration with Mr Chen in Xiamen. She also regularly visits our partners in Yunnan, Fujian and Zhejiang as often as possible and makes sure they can plan on what to set aside for Verdant and pack up to order with each harvest.

When Wang Huimin is not brewing tea she is learning everything she can about fine spirits, cooking, incense, Buddhism, precious stones, and basically anything she hears about. Wang Huimin’s favorite thing in the world is to learn new things and experience new cultures. She had an incredible time visiting Minneapolis and tasting tea with friends across the Midwest in 2014. She looks forward to visits to America every few years, continuing to share her love of tea with new friends around the world. 

 

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Lily Duckler

Lily spent her childhood growing up all around the world – from Indonesia to Angola and the UK – so moving to China with David was no big change. Lily picked up all her Chinese in the tea fields, working at the same time as a teacher at Qingdao University. Lily got extensive taste training from all the farmer friends we work with today. 

After returning to America, Lily followed her second passion working as a librarian and studying video editing and illustration while working at a post production house in Minneapolis. When Verdant started to grow, Lily decided to work full time with David on sharing her love of tea and the stories of the farmers she counts as her friends.

She spends much of her time now working with customers, illustrating articles, answering all of the questions we get across the internet, and leading local tastings.

Lauren Johnson

Lauren is the logistics manager and resident problem-solver for Verdant Tea and all of our partner businesses, including Prohibition Kombucha and Tree Fort Soda. She joined the team in 2013 upon moving to Minneapolis and has helped Verdant Tea’s brewing businesses stay organized, source better materials and make better product while managing day-to-day production, fulfillment and wholesale operations.

Outside of work, Lauren is an avid bike rider and an advocate for active transportation. She loves backpacking, rock climbing, and bicycle touring and can likely be found adventuring outside, reading a good book or playing board games with friends.

She hopes to one day visit China and meet the rest of the team she has worked closely with from afar.

Chris Weiss

Chris came to Verdant Tea in 2018 after having lived in Japan where he developed an interest in the tea world that supported local farmers and ceramic artisans.  Upon returning to the states and wanting to continue cultivating his understanding of tea, he joined Verdant Tea at the Minneapolis warehouse and has quickly grown into several roles from customer fulfillment to wholesale outreach.

When he isn’t working, Chris is loving getting to know the Twin Cities – mostly by bike – through exploring its diverse food scene and surrounding nature. When he doesn’t have a cup of tea in hand he enjoys experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen using local ingredients or fostering his love of cinema by visiting independent movie theaters.

 

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David Duckler

David came to tea not through business, but through a deep engagement with classical Chinese culture.  Schooled as a translator of Chinese fiction and poetry, David has spent much time in China on various research grants from the Freeman Foundation and the Fulbright program.  If David is not off sourcing tea, he might be found translating novels, like The Mountain Stairway by Tibetan author Alai.

Years ago, David was working with an advisor at Qingdao University on a translation project and happened to walk past a tea market every day.  In exploring Chinese tea for the first time, David immediately saw the traditions preserved from China’s classical heritage.  David couldn’t help but go back for another year to study tea in more depth, training under a tea master and working in the fields collecting folk tales about tea from the farmers.

This extremely hands-on experience gave David the chance to make lasting friendships with farmers across China, and exposed him to some of the most obscure and wonderful tea in the world.  David returned to America extremely indebted to these farmers for the knowledge they passed on and realized that the only way to pay them back was to share that knowledge and tea with the rest of the world.  Verdant Tea continues to work directly with the same farmers that David met years ago, and as a result of these friendships, we are able to bring in teas that have never before left China.

In David’s free time, he enjoys cooking as a second passion, attending culinary school and playing with food.  He also has a real weakness for collecting yixing teapots.  David’s favorite author is Jorge Louis Borges, with Italo Calvino coming in second.

 

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Geoffrey Reiff

Geoffrey began to explore the world of Chinese tea after first encountering David Duckler in Minneapolis.

The appreciation of fine tea quickly became a great passion for Geoffrey, and eventually forged an important place in his daily lifestyle. Geoffrey now works to help share Verdant Tea around the world, focusing on both web design and development and accounting and financials.

Geoffrey is particularly fond of strip-style oolongs from Wuyi and Feng Huang. When not drinking tea, he enjoys dancing Argentine Tango, rock climbing, studying history and reading literature.