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There is nothing like tender downy tea buds, hand-picked in cool early-season weather and hand finished by passionate small family growers. Buds have a unique flavor, and an intense sweetness from the stored sugars and the extremely limited sun exposure. In traditionally crafted black tea this flavor translates to honey, sweet potato, toasty bread, and other rich deep caramelized notes with a thick commanding texture.
This tasting kit is an exploration of all the ways buds bring flavor and texture to tea from three different regions and three different farmers dedicated to sustainable farming and meticulous craft.
The Dongsa cooperative wild-forages the leaves for their hand-fired black tea from trees well over one hundred years old, growing on the cool high elevation slopes of the Ailao National Forest Preserve. The biodiversity and well established root stock makes for deeply nuanced and complex tea, normally reserve for pressing and aging as sheng pu’er. This experimental offering is a new project by the cooperative to hand fire over low heat in a wok for a more classic Dian Hong style. The application of heat makes this more closely related to other Yunnan Black, and indeed it shares a rich sweet potato thickness similar to our Yunnan Golden Fleece, but with Qianjiazhai’s signature tulsi complexity and touches of citrus, and florals.
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The new 2019 harvest is here! This unique offering from Wang Yanxin is only possible because of her deep connections in both Henan and Laoshan. Her farmer friends produce extremely tiny bud Xinyang Maojian, a fine downy showstopper of a green tea. The second picking of the year is still all delicate downy buds, but tradition dictates only the first harvest is used for Henan’s iconic buddy green tea. Wang Yanxin works to rush-ship fresh tea leaves the day they are picked from Henan all the way up to Laoshan Village, where they are allowed to traditionally oxidize in the sun to make a black tea, and then finished using Laoshan’s extremely honed-in roasting and finishing techniques to combine the buddy steamed bun texture of Jin Jun Mei with the chocolatey goodness of Laoshan Black. This cross-province collaboration continues to prove that the world of tea is still full of innovators, pushing the boundaries of tradition.
This spring harvest Golden Fleece gets its name to honor the soft, rich textural experience of tasting this beautiful small harvest tea. Golden Fleece is hand picked from wild growth (unmanaged) Yunnan Da Bai tea bushes over forty years old. The biodiversity of the growing region and deeper roots mean a more complex flavor and aroma. Only the most perfect large tender buds are hand-harvested, and carefully hand-finished. The down from the buds infuses into every cup, yielding a uniquely thick mouthfeel. This year’s harvest is full and complex with cooling cedar, and spiced nutmeg and cinnamon undertones to bolster the luxurious creamy base.
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.
While Tieguanyin Xiaozhong uses smaller leaves for a traditional black tea, the Liu Family’a Tieguanyin Jin Jun Mei uses large Tieguanyin buds, orange with down, for a unique and particularly uncommon offering. This is a chance to taste the rich, sweet and savory flavor of bud material in the naturally floral Tieguanyin varietal. This tea is a clear demonstration that farmers like the Liu Family are not tied by tradition to only make what is currently accepted with the varietals they grow.