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Wuyishan is perhaps the most famous tea growing region in the world, and our partner Li Xiangxi and her family cultivate their award-winning oolongs in a perfectly-situated gorge along the Longchuan river within the Wuyishan Ecological Preserve, a pristine environmentally-protected region where biodiversity is key, and tea grows alongside wild bamboo, evergreens, and flowers.
Part of that biodiversity is about encouraging not just the widely known varietals like Rou Gui or Qilan to grow, but also making space for rare and difficult to find varietals not often seen or known outside of Wuyishan. Li Xiangxi believes that each varietal bring its own unique style to the pure expression of Wuyi minerality, and this sampler is a testament to those unique perspectives. Taste through five unknown varietals and discover a hidden side to Wuyishan.
You might recognize “Bai Mudan” as a white tea. This intriguing harvest is Da Bai cultivar planted in Wuyishan and picked with the classic Bai Mudan mix of leaf and smaller buds, but finished as a roasted oolong. The result is fascinating – a tea with the buddy mouth-filling textural thrill of a traditional Fuding Bai Mudan, but with the minerality and deep roasted flavor of a classic Wuyi Oolong. The aromatics are full of orange zest and licorice root. The first infusions have a bright white tea quality with earthier burdock undertones and coriander spice. Later steepings are rich and aromatic like floral ginger, with notes of juicy plum.
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Dan Gui is a relatively new hybrid, famous across China for its big, red osmanthus (dan gui) aromatics. While it has been used for rolled oolong and green tea, it is most well known as a strip-style Wuyi oolong. The Li family’s traditional Wuyi hand-fired finish brings out the full bodied gripping texture of Dan Gui, while allowing the bright florals to shine through in the lingering aftertaste. The biodiversity of their well-forested mountainous plot in the Wuyi Ecological Preserve allows deep incense aroma and spice to accent the osmanthus florals in this striking offering.
The Qilin is a mythical Chinese creature associated with wise benevolent rulers that has been compared to both the unicorn and the giraffe. This harvest is remarkably spice-forward with incense aromatics and a tingling quality that builds up on the tongue over multiple infusions. The spice and complexity of the varietal and the tremendous microclimate within the Wuyi Ecological Preserve are heightened even more by Mr. Li’s generous hand-firing in the finishing process.
This beautiful oolong smells like roasted pumpkin seeds and semolina right out of the bag. As we start steeping, we pick up herbaceous & complex rosemary notes along with white pepper & toasted burdock. As the tea opens up, its true nature starts to show with rich candied citrus peel and warm marigold. Through multiple infusions, the tea remains tightly composed, bright and sunny. As the aftertaste builds up, you can taste the beautiful stoney minerality of Wuyishan and the Li Family’s rocky soil.
Bai Ji Guan is a rare and unique varietal in Wuyi, named in honor of a mythical rooster who sacrificed his life to protect his children. The Li Family cultivates a small amount of Bai Ji Guan or “White Coxcomb” on their mountainside plot. This extremely light, beautiful, almost Dancong-like tea is full of the mineral notes that define Wuyi. It is thick and packed with unique vegetal undertones and florals. The Li Family’s careful cultivation and roasting means gorgeous giant light-colored leaves and a bright crisp brew.
My family has been tending to wild bushes and farming old tea trees
within the preserve for generations.
Living in a place of such natural beauty, we have come to seek balance
in our agriculture and balance in our tea. We preserve the natural forest cover,
we use beyond-organic methods, and we finish our teas by hand in small batches
– all to honor the gift of the place we call home.
I invite you to take the time to taste in our tea the deep complexity, rich texture, and intense aromatics
that define the true heritage of the Wuyishan Ecological Preserve.”
Li Xiangxi is an ordained Taoist priest, and founded the Yangxian Academy to teach Taoist tea ceremony as well as a philosophy of tasting and growing tea that is in harmony with nature.
While many investor-backed farmers ignored environmental laws in the early 2000’s, tearing out native trees to plant more tea, Li Xiangxi worked with her brother and cousin to reduce the family’s footprint when she inherited the land, encouraging rich wildlife and biodiversity. This effort has made her family pioneers in sustainable farming and local champions as the whole region becomes more mindful of its future and responsibility as the most famous growing region in the world.
Li Xiangxi and her family’s harvests amy be smaller, but their care in agriculture and their meticulous hand-finishing process have won them awards and inspired change throughout the region.
We finish each leaf with the care that it takes to create tea with lingering aromatics, intense aftertaste, rich engaging texture, and the elusive yun, or after-sensation.
We delicately tease out the aromatics through an 18 hour fluffing and turning process so demanding that our family can’t take the time to sleep when tea is being finished. We devote ourselves fully to the process and see it all the way through.
When our teas’ aromatics are just right we lock them in with another 16 hour hand firing, a nearly lost art that we are working to maintain to bring out texture and yun in every leaf. After the initial firing, we rest our teas at least a month and often re-fire up to five time for the perfect balance.
Our dedication wins us gold medals annually at Wuyi tasting competitions, but more importantly, it honors the gift of tea that this incredible region gives us.
We aren’t in this business for money. We share tea as a connection to nature and as a cultural bridge. We work with importer Verdant Tea because of years of friendship and deep shared values. We invite you to explore just a handful of videos from our time together.
If you are buying tea from one of the most famous regions in the world, video sharing the voices of the growers should be one of the most basic minimums from any importer.