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We believe that green tea should be as fresh as possible. That is why we work Mrs. Li in Dragonwell and the He Family in Laoshan to buy before the harvest, seal tea in their final bags within days of picking and rush ship each small batch as they are finished. Our partners work hard to manage biodiverse beyond-organic farms, hand pick their tea and carefully hand-finish in small batches to lock in the rich sweet complexity that fine green tea is known for.
This tasting kit is an invitation to see the difference that seasonality makes and the difference that the passion and sustainable practices of small family farming can bring to your cup. These teas are packed with sweet minerality, rich green notes and creamy undertones.
Mrs. Li is one of the few farmers fortunate enough to have several plots of land on the famous mountainside of Shi Feng, where her original cultivar (Longjing Qunti) Dragonwell is fed by sweet mountain spring water, picked by hand, and crafted one leaf at a time by her husband. She cultivates her world-famous tea using entirely organic farming techniques.
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Dragonwell varietal #43 has been carefully bred and selected in the last fifty years as a new tea well suited to Shi Feng’s terroir. It buds earlier and in colder weather than classic Longjing Qunti varietal and yields yellower plumper buds that make for gorgeous steeping in glassware. While classic Dragonwell is all about rocky mineral texture, the new #43 is a crisp, bright focused experience centered around stronger flavor and aroma and more pronounced sweetness.
Mrs. Li’s #43 varietal is true Shi Feng Dragonwell, growing on one of the highest slopes of the tiny microclimate that Emperor Qianlong declared as one of the best in the world for tea. The soil is full of quartz and white sand while the water comes from natural mountain springs, yielding a flavor that simply can’t be matched outside of Shi Feng itself.
This limited offering from Li Xiaoping can only be picked in years where the weather is cool and temperate and the rain is very light. At the very top of the peak of Shi Feng, there is a grove of trees that have been allowed to grow undisturbed to preserve a natural habitat for birds and increase biodiversity. Among the trees, the Li family has tea plants that have not been cut back and trimmed every year like the lower slope plants. Because these semi-wild Dragonwell bushes are not tended, they require perfect weather to yield the right flavor.
Li Xiaoping was able to pick these bushes again this year and offered us the majority of her tiny yield in the interest of cultural exchange and sharing a unique side of Shi Feng’s terroir not often seen. The flavor is rich, bold and complex, sharing the lingering sweetness an aromatic subtlety of early harvest Dragonwell with the big flavor of later harvests. The tea benefits from Shi Feng’s unique quartz-heavy white sand soil and mountain spring water, as well as the cool protected microclimate that the mountains form.
The new 2020 spring harvest is here! A mild winter and cool spring has made for a stunning early harvest of delicate buds and leaves from the He Family’s ocean-facing plot at the foot of the Laoshan mountains. These sweet delicate buds are fed by limestone-filtered mountain spring water and shaded by mist. The reserve Da Tian harvest is picked shortly after the winter greenhouse coverings are removed when the leaves are still sweet and packed with deep minerality.
The flat-pressing process that Mr. He uses to finish this reserve spring harvest is inspired by Dragonwell green tea. In fact, Laoshan tea was originally brought to the area from Dragonwell, so for this cultivar, flat-pressing is a return to its origins. The day-long labor-intensive process to finish this delicate tea makes for beautiful leaves to brew in glass. The flavor is lighter but the aroma and sweetness more pronounced with flat-pressing. The flat-pressing technique really allows the subtle complexity of this season’s harvest to shine through. This May harvest is picked once the protective winter greenhouses are removed and the risk of frost has passed.