Tea brings people together.
That is why tea is often the perfect gift for any occassion.
There is nothing like telling stories, catching up with friends or geeking out over a new taste experience around a shared pot of tea. Everything about tea is designed to help us slow down and enjoy life to the fullest, from beautiful hand made teapots and cups, to fresh aromatic tea that stops us in our tracks.
The invitation to slow down, taste, connect with friends and enjoy is one of the most powerful gifts that can be given.
Not only is tea from small family farms a powerful expression of friendship and hospitality, but it also reaches back to the people who made it, making lives better, raising up whole villages. Our mentor and partner farmer Mr. He of Laoshan Village shares the candid story of tea transforming his life and bringing hope to his family:
So, where do you start in picking out the perfect tea and teaware for gifting?
Never fear – the 2018 gift guide is here!
In the last month, we’ve tasted almost 100 new teas and fresh harvests from each of our partner-farmers across China, and of course, thoroughly field-tested our biggest teaware collection of the year. We’ve picked out the best of the best for every occasion so that you’ll be sure to find the perfect gift.
Every gift you give this season helps our partner farmers reinvest in their communities and support their families, giving tea a brighter future for generations to come.
To thank you for giving the gift of tea, every special tea and teaware in this year’s guide is available on sale at 18% off
while supplies last, now through Dec 31st.
Taking the first steps…
Xiangfu makes such clever and practical tea ware. When you want to make tea easy and approachable, but still give people the gongfu tea idea with small cups and short steepings, this Nesting Cups Glass Brewer Set is the way to go.
The cups nest inside each other for easy storage and clean up, while the integrated porcelain brewer can be removed when the tea is perfectly steeped. The wooden handle protects your hands against burns, and the rubber footing makes this very hard to break.
Plus, three cups means that if your lucky recipient takes a liking to tea and starts brewing it for their friends, they’ll be set up for success! Everything comes packed together in a cute and practical padded carry case for easy storage and protection.
Going a little farther…
When our friends are ready for gongfu brewing, we like to get them started with practical, easy to use pieces that don’t get in the way of great tea, and don’t cost a fortune. That is why we put together the Essentials Tea Set – everything we need for great gongfu tea.
The set includes a gaiwan, a glass pitcher, a stainless steel strainer, and two white porcelain tasting cups. Each piece is easy to use and easy to clean, and the simple gaiwan’s small capacity means you get more brews out of less tea – perfect!
For an upgrade, consider adding a tea board
like the Black Slatted Bamboo Tea Tray.
Tea boards aren’t strictly necessary if you use a mat or plate, but they do help catch drips, and make for a stunning way to frame off the whole set. A good-looking set-up always inspires more tea drinking!
Share the gift of tea!
We believe so strongly in the power of word of mouth to get new people drinking tea that we actually put together a sampler meant just for that purpose. For $5, you can send 5 samples from 4 farms to give your friends a broad introduction to the best of the best.
Need an extra incentive? How about an instant $5 gift certificate sent to your email towards your next purchase as a little thank you, and a printed $5 tea cash voucher in the gift box for your friend.
or build you own sample set!
Want to hedge your bets? Not sure what your friends and family are going to like best? We can help!
Almost every tea in our collection is available in 5g sample bags. Start with our build your own sampler, and you’ll be sure to find the tea that will spark a lifelong passion.
The Statement Piece
This Wooden Slats Folding Travel Set is the set we use when we travel. We’ve tried them all.
This set has a side-satchel carry case that you can use for your day bag while you are out and about. The slats come out and actually make for a generously large tea board – big enough to accomodate the three cups and gaiwan, plus strainer and 4th larger cup that doubles as a strainer holder.
You could easily fit a few more people at this board if you bring extra cups. We can even fit a handful of 5g samples of tea in the box when it is folded up so that we are ready for anything!
This is our number one foolproof tea for any situation.
Master Zhang’s careful finishing makes this brew up well in any cup, pot or gaiwan with any water. We’ve had this out of styrofoam cups filled from coffee machine water and it still tasted good. You need teas you can rely on when you travel, and this is ‘old trusty’ number one.
“Don’t bring ludicrously fine tea when you travel,” they say. Bah!
Everyone should come prepared to pull out all the stops and throw down with the best of the best. It’s pricey, but this hand-fired limited reserve from the Li Family’s old growth semi-wild Shui Xian grove is packed with all the get up and go you need to make those 4AM connections, and all the elegance to captivate a whole room of new friends.
Real adventure takes real energy, and this delivers!
Travel has its downsides.
Sometimes even when we ready for the next adventure, our stomachs are not.
That’s why we always bring along shu pu’er. Its thick rich flavor is always settling, and it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its digestive properties. Plus, as an added travel benefit, this cake of tea is compressed so it can’t break and doesn’t waste space in luggage.
Hand Built Yixing Teapots
There is something special about a hand-made piece of art that lasts for a lifetime. We are lucky to represent incredible artists like Lai Xiaohong, who personally sources and ages her own clays, bringing modern lines and bold details to ancient forms.
Not only is yixing beautiful for display, but it actually grows more lustrous and gives back better flavor after each brew session.
JIAN ZHAN from Huang Zhangfa
Jian Zhan is a burgeoning Song Dynasty revival, and Master Huang builds each piece by hand from his workshop in Shuiji where the style was first pioneered hundreds of years ago.
For stunning glazing and impeccable craftsmanship, Jian Zhan is worth exploring.
Like Yixing, Jian Zhan grows more lustrous over years of use, and is available in a variety of forms, from pitchers and tea cups to strainers and gaiwans.
For people that appreciate something truly special how about the most singular provenance you could ask for in the world of tea? This cake is pressed from leaves hand-harvested from one particular over 1000yr. old tree in Qianjiazhai by the Li Family.
It’s ludicrous that we can even bring this in.
We heard from Mr. Li that this year the demand is going up a LOT and we may not have a lock on the full harvest in 2019, so this is one of those one-time opportunities for collection and aging.
What a cool story! How many teas come with a GPS coordinate read-out? I mean, come on!
What? Hand picked Dancong from several hundred year old tree stock with a crazy story to go with it? What makes for better gifting conversation than that? Oh, maybe if the producer were rock star Huang Rui Guang, one of the founders of modern Dancong craft, and also one of most heavily awarded producers, tasters and teachers in Fenghuang.
This is an exquisitely complex tea, selected for its star-studded origins, but also because gifts for lovers of fine craft should take a lot of craft themselves. This tea takes about 36 hours of hand fluffing and turning to finish, making it one of the hardest teas out there to do right.
Ageable oolong, years of hand-firing and dedication to reviving craft? Sounds great!
This tea has been hand fired TEN times. Why is that special? Because each firing takes 12+ hours in a room that gets up above 115 degrees. The firing process adds deep complexity, and the aging adds depth and staying power.
This is one of those special teas that you just don’t see anymore, let alone an aged version.
At some point, tea ceases to be about flavor and aroma and becomes an escalating game of texture and aftertaste where you start seeking out crazy cooling notes, electrical sparkle, deep minerality, and lingering building sweetness.
This is easier to find in Sheng Pu’er and Old Tree Wuyi Oolongs, but how about a surprise out of left field? This Special Grade Designation from Master Zhang uses Rou Gui cultivar and gets a crazy revival-style finish researched from old techniques. The result is packed with all that texture and sparkle that keeps tea exciting.
Tongmu is one of the most “revered” and in demand micro-climates for tea in the world.
The Li Family’s old family home happens to be right on a Tongmu hillside covered in wildly-propagated tea bushes growing out of rocks. The Chinese market goes for the buddy Jin Jun Mei, driving up prices to insane levels, but the equally texture-focused and deep Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong from the young leaves is still within reach.
That rocky deep complexity comes through for one of the truest most “unfiltered” portraits of Wuyi terroir you can find anywhere.
While we are on the subject of Wuyishan… how about the Li Family’s Special Grade Shui Jin Gui?
Li Xiangxi and her brother don’t throw out that Special Grade designation without just cause. This Shui Jin Gui has to be jam-packed with all the crazy cooling “yun” texture that we love, and with smoldering incense spice and juicy fruity goodness all the way through.
This tea is luscious. It feels like silk and music. If you need a gift for someone in a rut or stuck in their ways, this will jolt them off the beaten track.
Sometimes exciting crazy teas don’t come from chasing the highest price tag, but from the most innovation.
Laoshan as a region is still relatively new to tea and trying all kinds of crazy experiments. The He Family leads much of this innovation through their cooperative. This tea is a hand finished chocolate and honey packed black tea scented with tiny wild Laoshan Osmanthus flowers growing higher up on the rocky mountain slopes. The results are full of honey and deep florals.
Dessert in a cup. This lighthearted playful tea is impossible not to like.
Know someone who has tried every tea?
How about something that isn’t exactly tea?
This wild yabao comes from the close tea relative Camellia crassicolumna, which grows wild in the oldest tea tree forest in the world. This crazy budset tea is packed with deep spice and a building lingering sweetness. It delivers unbeatable complexity, and as an added benefit, does so without caffeine
Not everyone has the time or space for Gongfu brewing, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
This brew mug from Xiangfu has gotten many of our friends and family drinking tea daily because it is so easy to use. The glass seperates from the wood and rubber segments for easy washing in the dishwasher. The rubber bottom prevents breakage, and the steeper comes out and rests on its own lid when the tea is brewed.
Everything a person needs to enjoy great tea at home or at work!
For folks who don’t drink tea because they are sensitive to caffeine in the afternoons, we have the perfect solution.
No, not decaf! How about two awesome herbals teas that are hand-picked, and finished using tea making techniques for deep complexity?
Gan Zao Ye from Laoshan is finished as a green tea and tastes like Genmaicha, complete with green bean and toasted rice flavor.
Crassicolumna Black is finished as a black tea and has big fruity notes, malt and spice. You can’t go wrong!
Everyone loves Tieguanyin!
It is so fresh and sweet and floral. Even people that don’t drink tea are coaxed into trying a cup after they smell the lilac and honey and saffron. There is nothing not to like!
Many people assume they don’t like tea after having insipid tea bag black tea or bitter old oxidized green tea. Tieguanyin is the forceful push people need to see that tea is worthwhile for its flavor and aroma.
We love experimenting with tea blends in our free time, and actually have a huge collection of recipes for inspiration. Maybe you know someone who just loves ginger, or can’t resist orange spice when the weather turns cold.
Blending your own awesome teas is actually really easy! So many grocery stores have big bulk spice sections to work with, letting you give a personal touch to your holiday gifting. Check out our blend recipes >>
Need a place to start? Here are two of our favorite solid bases to mix with spices, herbs, flowers and more.
They invent new teas every year, invest their proceeds back into the village cooperative, teach other villagers how to grow tea and raise up the whole region. The He Family’s quiet activism has helped Laoshan gain protected status and brought hope to the next generation.
The Zhenyuan Dongsa Cooperative is all about education. The current leader of the Cooperative, Mr. Zhou, is a middle school teacher on the weekdays, and after school goes to each remote family to help share and exchange methods for picking tea and finishing teas between members.
Slowly but surely, the cooperative is helping people move from a foraging subsistence to actually saving up enough for their kids to go to college and bring back more knowledge to the area. Cooperative members reinvest in roads to connect people and make it easier for kids to get to school, and in school supplies for the most remote classrooms.
Li Xiangxi leads the Yangxian Tea Institute to teach tea ceremony and tasting, all while working as an advocate for environmental protections to prevent overfarming. She and her family stand against development in Tongmu and the Wuyi Ecological Preserve through careful lobbying and grassroots education of the next generation of tea professionals.
Master Zhang is an award-winning teacher and farmer responsible for leading his neighbors in Daping Village towards a sustainable organic farming model over the last 40 years.
He reinvests in the land by converting land back to original forest, and encouraging biodiversity. He seeks to build a responsible model for the next generation that puts the land first while yielding even better tea.
and finally, from all of our partners
our CSA-style Tea of the Month Club!
This CSA-style monthly box is curated 100% by one different farmer each month.
It is our friends’ chance to try out new experimental harvests, share the freshest and latest teas, and reach out to connect with tea lovers across the whole world.
This is a gift that it not only a thrill to drink, but a thrill for our partners to have the chance to provide!
No matter how you choose to share tea this holiday season, we hope you have fun sharing the gift that we all love so much. Tea makes a difference in our lives, and we want you all to know how much your support makes a difference to all of us.
Your support makes all of our farmer partners’ projects possible, from new cooperatives and experimental harvests in Shandong, to tea ceremony schools in Wuyishan and roads and critical equipment in rural Yunnan.
We couldn’t do it without you.
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