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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 four different regions and four different farmers dedicated to sustainable farming and meticulous craft.
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.
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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 uniquely complex with cooling cedar, and spiced nutmeg and cinnamon undertones to bolster the luxurious creamy base.
The Bai Rui is the Winter Daphne, a flower native to China with an intensely sweet fruity aroma. This rich incense-forward varieties shares those heady perfumed overtones with its namesake, along with the rare and sought-after yun xiang, the cooling tingling sensation that build up in the back of the throat. The Li Family finishes their Bai Rui Xiang as a ‘reserve’ quality tea, using a meticulous twelve hour hand-firing to bring out deep complexity. The minerality of the family’s volcanic rocky mountainside plot comes through as a textural foundation for the spices to build on, resulting in a balanced, beautifully structured Wuyi Oolong.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.
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.
Xingcun Xiaozhong varietal tea in Wuyishan can produce black and gold buds. While the golden bud expression has been encouraged through cultivation for its stunning color, Li Xiangxi and her family often prefer the depth and complexity of black buds. This tea still uses the same tiny buds and the same meticulous hand-picking as their golden buds Jin Jun Mei, but with a more spiced and savory flavor profile.