Every spring for the last decade, we’ve been lucky enough to be in Laoshan. Every year, the He Family welcomes us back, even during their busiest time of the year. It has been so exciting to watch things change every year as the He Family and their tea projects have grown.
In the past ten years, the He Family has founded a cooperative, built a new workshop, invented several new kinds of tea, won awards, taught new techniques to their community, championed environmental stewardship, and bolstered the entire reputation of the region.
So, what’s new this spring in Laoshan?
Here’s a handful of the latest and greatest news from our oldest tea partners in China.
The He Family is prolific in championing wild-foraged herbs from the mountains of Laoshan. These wild-foraged herbs are a great barometer for the ecosystem as a whole, as they require undisturbed land, clean water and biodiverse surroundings to grow without intervention. The popularity of the He Family’s wild herbs is even greater incentive to safeguard the natural resources in the mountains.
The He Family started offering Gan Zao Ye a few years ago, and now this unique tea is experiencing a meteoric rise in price and demand in nearby Qingdao as a true wild-picked tea native to Shandong. The success of Gan Zao Ye helps offset tough years like 2018’s cold winter in case of a lower yield on tea bushes, allowing the He Family and their neighbors to reinvest in the community.
This year, the He Family is experimenting with a brand new herbal, wild foraged huaihua flowers, withered, rolled and fired with green tea style hand-finishing. Tea of the Month Club members will get the first look as soon as the first harvest arrives, alongside another all-new Laoshan herbal tea.
We are excited to share so many herbal teas from the He Family, including Gan Zao Ye, Suan Zao Ye, Mulberry Leaf Tea, and more this year. Keep an eye out for fresh harvests over the next month. The He Family finally has the bulk of their early spring green tea finishing out of the way, giving them more time to work on herbals, black teas, oolong tea, and more.
Fame for the He Family
Mr. He is finally being recognized in Shandong as a go-to expert in Laoshan. He was recently featured for a full-length TV interview where Qingdao TV’s news crews came out and documented his family at work, asking him all about this year’s harvest.
The He Family was also recently featured in The Growler Magazine, the latest in many stories about their incredible work on environmental stewardship and dedicated craft.
For Verdant’s work with the He Family, the Qianjiazhai Dongsa Cooperative, Master Zhang and Li Xiangxi, we’ve also been nominated for Best Sustainability Initiative at the World Tea Expo this year (as well as Best Tea Website).
It is satisfying to see the He Family’s hard work paying off, as Mr. He’s biggest goal – the one he shared with us a decade ago – has been to raise up the whole region so that he could have something truly valuable to pass on to his children and now, grandchildren.
Speaking of children – Mr He’s daughter and Verdant Tea co-owner He Qingqing recently visited a kindergarten class in Jimo after being invited in to teach the kids all about their cultural heritage of Laoshan Tea.
Qingqing was surprised by the childrens’ deep interest and ample questions – a great sign for the future of the region!
Mr. He’s fame and leadership is bringing more people to his cooperative’s workshop to have his family do the finishing on their leaves.
This means private individuals and other tea farmers can bring fresh leaves and make sure they are finished to the absolute highest standard, making Laoshan tea even finer for more and more people.
This year’s harvests
This year has been the best in recent memory for a long mild spring that has yielded a fantastic picking window on Mr. He’s favorite harvests – the cool weather picking after the greenhouse covers come off but before the summer heat starts up. This means that this year’s reserve harvests are rich, sweet and creamy, full of textural nuance. We’ve noticed particularly high levels of sugar in the early reserve harvests so far, evident when we’ve been flash chilling iced tea at home in a cocktail shaker and end up with a fine and persistent foam after shaking.
As of May 20th, pre-orders are open on all reserve harvests. These have all been picked, and are currently being packaged up at our Laoshan office by Weiwei and the team. These pre-orders include:
Picking Mingqian Reserve Laoshan Green:
The lightest but creamiest and most lingering sweet aftertaste
Reserve Laoshan Bilochun:
Mr. He’s favorite harvest for its bigger soybean flavor and subtle minty aftertaste
Pressed Reserve Laoshan Green:
Carefully finished to unfold beautifully in a glass, preserving the sweet delicate matcha-like greenness
Pine Needle Green:
An interesting tea with the richness of Bilochun and the sweetness of flat-pressed Laoshan Green. Qingqing’s personal favorite
Reserve Laoshan Green:
The classic finsih on an early spring harvest- the most bean and malt forward of the early harvests with big rich creamy texture.
Reserve Laoshan Black:
The first Laoshan BLack of the year! This is the most nuanced and honey-like harvest of the year with balanced chocolate undertones.
What is still to come?
We are waiting on final confirmation from the He Family before offering their herbal collection for pre-order or putting up their later classic harvests. Expect an update on herbals and classic harvests in the 1st or 2nd week of June!
Don’t miss out on your pre-orders! We expect many pre-order teas to sell out before they arrive, and we may not be able to bring in the exact same harvest again as a restock. We’ll do our best to keep as many of the He Family’s incredible teas in stock as they are able to finish for us.