Yin & Yang: light and dark, male and female. This is a traditional Chinese way to consider the world. It can apply to people, societies, and tea. Some consider Silver Needles the lightest, most delicate, most beautiful of all teas. Compare that to Big Red Robe, which may be one of the darkest and strongest oolong teas. These teas come from a small area in northern Fujian, China. And for TeaSource, they both come from a supremely talented tea-making couple from that same region.
This fall, while speaking at the Xiaman International Tea Festival, I met a tea-making husband and wife team from Fuding, China; the ancestral home of Silver Needles the original great white tea.
Above: The first building of the Xiamean International Tea Festival. There were seven more of these buildings filled with tea and tea folk.
Ms. Yanmei Li exclusively makes Silver Needles from old tea bushes in the Fuding region.
Above: Yanmei is very proud of this tea. She learned the tea making craft from her father and grandfather.
Over the last 10 years, it has become increasingly difficult to source GREAT Chinese Silver Needles. When I tasted Yanmei’s Silver Needles at her booth, it took me back to 20 years ago; before Silver Needles was “discovered” by the West. This is the best Silver Needles I have had in a long time.
Above: Yanmei making Silver Needles white tea for me and my translator, Phoebe, and talking about her and her husband Eldon's work. Yanmei’s job is making Silver Needles for their small company. Eldon’s job is exclusively making Big Red Robe, specifically a baked oolong that is fired with a charcoal roasting process that he learned from his father. That is the whole company, except when they call in relatives to help out during busy times.
Above: The field and tea plants outside Fuding, China, from which our new Silver Needles comes, with Eldon and their new baby. For Yanmei and Eldon, making tea is a family affair.
Above: This is the field and plants used in the making of our new Big Red Robe. This field is in Anxi County, Fujian province - the traditional home of Big Red Robe. After plucking, the leaves are sent to Eldon in Fuding, where he combines tea making and alchemy to make an incredible and unique Big Red Robe tea.
Above: After the tea has gone through a typical oolong manufacturing process, they prepare special small pits where the tea is covered in charcoal.
Above: Here the tea is being “fired” with traditional charcoal roasting.
Above: When all the small tea pits are filled with tea, covered with charcoal, and fired, it is an incredible sight.
Above: The name of Yanmei and Eldon’s company, appropriately enough, is Share & Taste Tea. They believe in making the best tea they can, using the same techniques their elders did; and then sharing that tea and their love of tea with others.
I am really enjoying these teas, and I am proud to know the folks who made them.
Bill Waddington, owner