Beyond the Leaf
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
A fabulous documentary about Chinese tea called Leaves of Change has been produced by Indianapolis Public Television. TeaSource founder Bill Waddington was involved and ended up being featured throughout this film. This documentary is available to all public television stations for broadcast- so call up your local public television station and ask them to carry Leaves of Change.
In the meantime, everyone can view this documentary online, for free, at this link:
“What a great film. They got all their facts straight, but more importantly they captured the feeling…the spirit of tea. And it is just a gorgeous, beautifully made film; although it is very disconcerting to see my own face up there. I’m way too Minnesotan to be comfortable with that.” - Bill Waddington
The film is succinct, only 30 minutes long; mostly shot in China (and a little in Minnesota) and an absolute joy to watch. It focuses on the role of tea in daily life, and how tea serves as a link to bring people and society together.
So check it out. We’re confident you’ll enjoy it. And please share this with your friends!
*At some point in the not too distant future this link will no longer work, so don’t forget to call and support your local public television station and request they broadcast this film.
Tea blends came about for two reasons; first to introduce new and unique tastes, aromas, and textures to a cup of tea. This is the fun, creative, and/or medicinal aspect of tea blending.
Secondly, tea blends make it possible to have absolute consistency in a pot of tea; from cup to cup, year to year, decade to decade. Since tea is an agricultural crop it can vary from year to year. It is only through blending various ingredients to balance the blend that this consistency can be achieved.
Purists may turn up their noses at tea blends; but the enjoyment of tea blends is almost as old as the discovery of tea itself. The Chinese have been making tea blends for 2500 years. The first book on tea, The Classic of Tea, by Lu Yu published around 760 A.D. talks of many items (mostly herbs and medicinals) that can be blended with tea. Two of the most famous tea blends are Jasmine tea and Earl Grey tea, both going back hundreds of years.
Traditionally, a given geographic area would blend into their tea whatever was produced or available locally. Southeastern China would blend in orange peels from their citrus groves. Tibet would blend in yak butter and salt. Indians would blend in local spices like cardamom, pepper, ginger. Eastern Europeans would blend in local fruits and berries.
To get a deeper look into Chinese teas, be sure to watch owner Bill Waddington in the PBS documentary about tea "Leaves of Change." Watch it here.
Our Dan Cong Oolong is hand-made by a very small tea company located in eastern Guangdong province of China. They call themselves Propitious Clouds Trading Co. and they are dedicated to making regional specialties and super-high quality teas. These folks own their own tea fields and small factory and have won many awards in tea competitions throughout China.
This tea is grown at an elevation of 2000’ and is hand-processed in very small batches. Here is the tea during the oxidation step.
Owner Bill Waddington met Brian, the general manager, at a tea festival in Xiamen, China last year. Here they are sharing a cup of tea together.
Dan Cong literally translates as “lone bush” and refers to a high grade oolong that comes from a single tea bush or wild tea tree, as opposed to a large plantation of uniform commercial tea plants. Here the tea leaves are being picked from the garden.
This is a very special oolong that goes through unique sun-drying, followed by multiple courses of rolling, fluffing, and oxidizing the leaves.
Sun withering of the tea leaves.
Rolling and shaking the leaves leads to the complexity and texture of this tea.
Don't miss out on this incredible tea! Limited availability.
In 2017 TeaSource is shining a spotlight on tea blends, both in-store and on the web. We’ll feature and discount tea blends throughout the year. We’ll have workshops on blending your own teas. We’ll be posting numerous blog posts throughout the year on tea blends and blending, and we’ll introduce 8-10 new tea blends throughout 2017.
So, what is a tea blend? A tea blend is a combination of a straight tea (from Camellia sinensis) and something else. It can be a combination of straight teas, all from Camellia sinensis, like English Breakfast. Or it can be a straight tea blended with almost anything else: fruits, flavors, spices, herbs, candies, roots, vegetables, ad infinitum.
1. Exclusive deals!
You like free stuff, right? Every month members can take advantage of an exclusive promotion. Enjoy perks like $10 off your order, free shipping, and discounts on teas and accessories.
2. Learn more about tea.
It still amazes us how much there is to learn about this one little plant. You’ll receive educational material, handouts, and tea tips throughout your membership.
3. Geek out to your heart’s content.
We wear the title “tea geek” around here like a badge of honor. Every new member receives a FREE professional cupping journal so you can build your own catalog of tea notes and impressions.
4. We do all the work.
In a world of infinite choices, we carefully select the two teas you receive in each package. You’ll get amazing teas delivered right to your doorstep without lifting a finger.
5. Become part of a community.
We have members in over 20 states across the U.S. and are still growing! Join us in our quest to discover and experience new and exceptional teas from all over the globe.
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