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The finest black teas in the world come from small family farms run with the sustainability and beyond-organic practices that can only come from one generation tending land that they will pass down to their children. The rich deep complexity of the finest black teas comes from stringent picking standards for the ideal tender bud and leaf mix, and from slow careful oxidation to bring out more nuance in small batches.
This tasting kit is an introduction to the incredible diversity of flavor that our partners offer with their balck teas from malty chocolate-driven Laoshan Black from the north of China to rich aromatic honeyed Mi Lan Black from Fenghuang in the south. Through craft, varietal, and microclimate, our farmer-partners are proud to represent the best that China has to offer.
This tea is the first Laoshan Black from the He Family of 2019 – carefully crafted with hand-picked buds underneath the protection of the greenhouses, then oxidized slowly to bring out sweet, chocolatey flavor. The He Family is offering this early Laoshan Black harvest to show off the wonderful flavor that their craft in roasting and oxidizing brings to tiny budset Laoshan tea. The stored sugar and nutrients of the earliest Da Tian pickings has more sweetness and lingering aftertaste than later harvests. This year’s beautifull spring came together for a harvest full of delicate flavor.
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Jin Jun Mei Wuyi black tea is one of the most labor intensive and demanding teas to produce. Fine Jin Jun Mei is made exclusively from tiny spring buds, and requires thousands and thousands of hand-picked golden buds to make a single pound of finished tea. The result is a downy tea with a thick full texture, and a beautiful elegance. Li Xiangxi’s spring-fed tea grows out of rocky, sandy soil, yielding a rich mineral flavor true to Wuyishan’s unique terroir. This year’s harvets is especially unique in its lingering cooling sensation and forest undertones.
The earliest Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, (or Lapsang Souchong as it is commonly referred to in the West) was never deep-smoked. The smokiness was a natural and subtle addition that came from drying the leaves in a wok heated by pine wood. The smoke from the pine wood naturally mixed with the tea, creating a deeper and more foresty flavor that accentuated the tea’s minerality. The Li Family preserves this old-school aesthetic with careful application of smoke from local resinous pine. The sweet, roasted quality of the smoke processing blends with the rich flavor of the tea to yield a dark fruity flavor, and bring front and center the mineral texture of the soil of Wuyi.
This tea is wild-foraged by the Li Family of the Dongsa Cooperative within the Mt Ailao National Forest Preserve. The silvery buds and twisting golden leaves are picked from ancient tea trees between one hundred and eight hundred years old scattered between other evergreens, and wildflowers on the rocky mountainside. This incredibly labor-intensive tea to harvest is actually allowed to sun-roast and oxidize without applying heat in a wok. Because more moisture is retained in the leaf, this black tea is a fantastic candidate for aging like traditional sheng pu’er. Only a high-elevation remote place like Qianjiazhai can count on enough sunlight in the spring for this old but rare finishing technique. The result is a tea with the sweet malt of a black tea but the staggering complexity and herbaceous undertones of a sheng pu’er. A true standout!
Huang Ruiguang’s family Mi Lan Dancong is picked only once a year from single trees that are not pruned back to encourage deeper roots & more robust flavor, year after year. His mountain plot and decades of work in improving agriculture techniques for the region have earned Huang Ruiguang’s Mi Lan awards such as the recent 2015 Gold Medal at the Sixth Guangdong Tea Expo. This Mi Lan is allowed to naturally oxidize for over 24 hours before being carefully spread, baked and tumbled. The oxidation creates a deep rich black tea flavor, but Mi Lan varietal’s natural juicy floral honey flavor still comes through strong.