Wild Peony King
This Wild Peony King comes to us from one of our well-respected tea foragers, Mr. Fan, also aptly known as “Hunter.”
Many years ago Mr. Fan had taken a position in the forestry department of his local government, in his hometown Zhenge, and was tasked with managing a population of wild boars that were wreaking havoc for local farmers. In 2009, while he was tracking boars in the mountains, he stumbled into an area dense with wild, abandoned tea trees. He was taken aback by the beauty of this discovery: to see so many tea trees, thriving on their own, at home in the ancient forest. And so began his path as a tea forager and producer.
For many reasons, Mr. Fan is a unique tea artisan. Firstly, he does not own any land himself, and he does not have a tea farm. He focuses on crafting tea from wild and semi-wild abandoned tea trees in the mountains, and his wealth is only his understanding of their location and their rhythms.
This tea is made from tea trees that were planted by tea farmers in the 1970’s, and then abandoned as people left the villages for coastal cities. They are of the traditional Zhenghe Dabai (Big White) 政和大白 varietal, situated within thousands of acres of old growth forest, more than 3600 feet above sea level. They grew from seeds that were washed downstream from a river that runs through the middle of the forest. In these vast, old growth forests, the wild tea trees compete with a variety of other types of trees, all seeking precious, diffused sunlight. Thus, the roots of the tea trees extend deep into the earth to draw nutrients, and they grow slowly, accumulating these rich nutrients and compounds in their leaves. We feel this richness in the tea they yield.
What makes this tea different from the usual White Peony we see is the picking standard; only the fresh bud and one fresh leaf is harvested for this tea, making it more like a Silver Needle tea.
Aside from this exceptional feature, the craftsmanship of this tea is very traditional. For centuries, Zhenghe white tea has been processed by way of 阴干, or shade drying. The foraged tea leaves are spread out on bamboo mats and are attentively dried in the shade. It is not common for a tea to be made without any exposure to sun, fans, heat, or mechanical roasting, and the result this has on its quality is significant. Essentially, shade dried tea leaves are still “alive,” and retain the most live enzymes and nutrients as possible. This method of presenting tea is laborious, time-consuming, and requires a substantial amount of space – it is no wonder it is so uncommon.
This patient method results in a tea that is as nourishing as it is enjoyable. Its nutritive density and richness is offset by the delicate nature of the young leaves it is made of. The liquor coats the mouth and throat with a complex and lingering sweetness. At first we find notes of fresh soy milk, mountain herbs, and nuts. In subsequent infusions it becomes more floral and subtly fruity; we taste bamboo, plum blossom and crimson rose. All the while there is a mysteriously impactful quality to this tea, perhaps something lent to it by the shadows it saw.
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|Steep time||10 - 90 sec|
|No. of infusions||10+|