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"Our wood has resin inside... Real smoked Xiaozhong is very rare, and the cost to produce it gets higher and higher, because the cost of real pine is higher and higher."

- Li Xiangxi, Tongmu, Wuyishan
 
Click to watch
DATE OF PICKINGSpring 2018
ELEVATION1000 meters
MIXED WILD XINGCUN XIAOZHONGTea Varietal

Li Xiangxi’s cousin manages the family’s local pine wood collection and selects and dries each batch of wood perfectly to minimize actual smoke and maximize the release of oils and resins, yielding the most subtle smoked tea we have ever tasted. The smoke brings out the intense texture of Tongmu minerality and the pine resin brings out the cooling sensation of this wild-picked tea.

Smoked Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, commonly known in the west as Lapsang Souchong was an accidental discovery when a farmers’ traditional pinewood workshop was burned down by passing soldiers. The farmer worked to salvage the tea inside, the product of their whole spring’s labor, and found that the tea had absorbed a rich intense smoke. They sold the harvest to the Dutch, who came back the next year demanding huge quantities of the smokey tea, which had become an overnight sensation.

Tongmu is a tiny region that has been designated for special protection and recognition. Non-residents are not allowed into the preserve without special approval and sponsorship from a resident.

The region of Tongmu is unique within the Wuyishan region for its volcanic rock formations, and extremely thick vegetation coverage and biodiversity. Nestled along either bank upstream of the Jiuqu (Nine Bends) Brook, the mountains create a unique microclimate, perfect for many species of birds and a healthy ecosystem. Mountain spring water springs out of the ground and runs down every slope, and the rocky land and cold weather make for slow-growing but singularly incredible tea.

 
the Li Family has been using this room for generations to smoke their Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong

Produced By the Li Family

This pure expression of the incredible terroir of the Tongmu microclimate is packed with sweet mouth-watering minerality from the volcanic rocky soil, and posseses the cooling tingling sensations the Li Xiangxi describes as yun, a nod to the biodiversity and the evergreen forests within the nature preserve.

Tasting Profile

  • VERY SPICY – wintergreen, pine, cedar
  • VERY SPICY – nutmeg, minerality, pepper
  • SAVORY – roasted barley
  • A LITTLE VEGETAL – basil

    the Li Family smokes their black tea above these wooden beams in bamboo baskets

the Li Family's new addition to their workshop in Tongmu
the Li Family’s new addition to their workshop in Tongmu
 

This tea is a true celebration of how craft and terroir come together for something truly stunning. The volcanic soil of Tongmu makes for big rocky mineral flavor in the tea, while the evergreen forests and competition from biodiversity already contribute to a cooling lingering yun sensation. Add to the abundant natural complexity of this wild-picked tea with the meticulous tradition pine smoking, and something increible emerges- a tea whose smoke flavors merge so seamlessly with the natural inherent flavor of the tea that it is impossible to draw them apart. This is what smoked tea should be- textural complexity to bolster what makes a tea special, not an overwhelming flavor that covers up the base. Only careful wood management like the Li Family’s can achieve this perfect balance.

Li Xiangxi and her cousin, hiking above their family home in Tongmu

The aroma of this tea is full of sandalwood and pine, with deep rich foresty undertones that remind us of hiking through the mossy fern-covered forests of the Pacific Northwest. The actual flavor is full of intense nutmeg and black pepper spice. The balance of extreme sweet and salty creates a dynamic tension that keeps this tea exciting with every sip.

As the pine flavors build up, a cooling wintergreen sensation starts to dominate, accented by herbaceous basil. The warmer savory notes begin to fade away to a clean, focused cooling intensity that takes over the palate and the back of the throat like almost no other tea can.