When I first entered Zao Bing Liang’s tasting room, the air is filled with the freshness of the aroma of maocha. Bags of samples from newly collected loose leaves lined up in rows, each marked with a numeric code. The teas were trucked in from the various mountains in the region. Some maybe less than 30 minutes away, others can be a full day. Yunnan is over 10% larger even than the whole of Germany and tea trees exist in almost all of its mountains.
Some of these maochas are from highly sought after famous villages or mountains, which will be individually made into products carrying their origin names to demand very high market prices. A new discus from Ban Zhang, for example, can easily be fetching thousands of dollars. Aged ones are even much pricier.
Yet there are more others from not as highly demanded origins, but also taste worthy. That’s where Zao’s “formulae” come in. Since the 1970’s, the old master has developed a number of recipes for ganging up harvests from origins of lesser known names for more affordable delicious teas. 7548 is the code name for his most prized and classic shengcha formula.
These bags of samples in lines were there for the old master to finalise which batches and what proportion for the mix. He does that every harvest, for every product.
Presenting the 7548 cha bing from Lao Tong Zhi ( ie Old Comrade ), Master Zao’s very own tea brand. Batch 701 is the first batch of year 2007. That means the best of the year and matured till now.
It is a prime product of old Master Zao’s passion for bringing quality to more people without the price tag of premium origin labels.
There are two product variants to choose from:
A single discus of 357g net weight in the original paper wrap, or a traditional vending form of 7 cha bings bundled in a bamboo sleeve, net weight totalling 2.5 kg.
Please click below to see either options.
Deep in the mountains in Xishuangbanna in southern Yunnan tea trees grow wild amongst other woods and plants in Bulang Shan. Ethnic mountain people, particularly women, bring with them wood ladders and a plank for platform for plucking in tea season, perhaps as it has always been since antiquity. As a continuation of this tradition, Bulang Silver Spring is hand-processed and slow dried over wood charcoal the same way. This shengcha puer is bright and refreshing when consumed as a new tea, or can be put away for maturity.
To most people, teas from Taiwan are synonymous with high mountain oolongs. Officially, these are the four top subregions for the tea: Alishan, Shan Lin Xi, Li Shan, and Yu Shan. We already carry quite a few Alishan’s, to find one from the others, we have been relentlessly searching. It has to be one comparable to those from Alishan but individualistic enough.
Shan Lin Xi — literally Stream of Cypress Woods — is an area deep in a national reserve in the mountainous central area of the island country. Two hour driving from the station in the small city of Chia Yi, you will have climbed 1000m on the curvy roads deep in the sparse village areas with dense tall trees and quite many degrees lower than down there. Tea patches are hidden here and there amongst forests, occasional clusters of bamboos and a great diversity of wild plants.
The same Chin Hsin Gan Chi cultivar grown here yields leaves that seem to have acquired a different character, a somehow lighter yet more complex, more stimulating tinkle. Previously when I was still operating a teahouse, some customers came to do Zen with tea as the medium. I guess this Shan Lin Xi Oolong can be one for it too.
Net weight: 70 g (2.5 oz) in Kraft-alu pillow pack
In historical herbal literature, tea is referred to as bitter, “extremely chilly” to the body constituents, but effectively detoxicating. That basically is what is the raw tea leaf. While green tea is cooked, and most white tea is from plants that are severely tamed through breeding, Pu’er maocha maybe the closest thing one can get commercially nowadays for what the ancients had referred to.
Yet in order to offer a tea that is taste worthy, we have to find plants that are strong and and soil that is rich to provide that potential. And dry those leaves from the first flush and age them well to round off all the edges and deepen the tastes.
A Whipping Rattan Tea bush is such pruned that buds just flush in the tips of its few branches. All the plant’s nutrients are thus focused in these few young leaves. We think that would be good raw material for us to process and age.
Presenting the very special Whipping Rattan Bang Xie Maocha, aged since 2007. A unique Pu’er tea in every way.
Tea Hong’s Mo Gan Yellow Snails is a break away from the old Mo Gan Yellow Tip. We have greatly modified traditional yellowing to give the tea a distinctive yellow look and a taste that is different from both green tea and old style yellow tea. A neo-yellow.
Unlike other tea categories, old style yellow tea has not prospered in all these decades since tea’s revival after the destructive Mao era. Its taste needs a lot more to create followers.
Similarly from the mountain of Mo Gan in the region of Zhejiang, Tea Hong’s Mo Gan Yellow Snails has departed from the dull colours of the old to maintain a brisk freshness in the look and taste, while achieving a characteristic “cooked” warmth and sweetness that is the real spirit of yellow tea. Now that is a good individualistic character to have a place in any tea repertoire.
The very same cultivar which leaves that make the black tea, Fragrance of Taiwan — Red Jade — is employed to make this unique white tea. Where the black tea has an upfront distinctive character which tea novices may need time to grow into, the white tea version is a lot friendlier for understanding this wonderful camellia formosenisis species with.
Hong Yu Deep White has the light and easy first impression like other white teas, but that will grow in your palate to the roundness of an aged black tea and the floral character of an oolong. An unmistakable gastronomical signature uniquely its own seamlessly holds all elements together as a continuum of olfactory-palatial sensation experience.
Deep in Wudong, the most revered area for Fenhuang Dancong production, the village of Shèmen ( sheh-mehn ) is home to one of the most elusive traditional style oolongs. Here the Shè ( 畬 ) tribe settled a thousand years ago and began producing oolong to bake it in a way that was copied in Wuyishan a few hundred years later to produce Wuyi oolongs. Tea Hong’s double baked and matured Shèmen Dancong is our best attempt to reconstruct the same tea of the peace-loving and hard-working Shè people 10 centuries ago. This old style oolong gives a clear and most eloquent definition of the tea term yan-yun — music from the rock. The term has been mostly employed to describe better Wuyi oolongs yet it has never been more beautifully defined by this Phoenix tea. If you ever wonder about the relationship of the oolongs between the two regions, this may well be the link you are looking for.
Net weight: 40 g (1.4 oz) in Kraft-alu pack
Some people like their green tea soft and sweet, others may prefer a good umami. Yet this leaf shoot tea is neither. Its bitterness is accented by its sharpness on a bold, full body. After Longjing, of all the other green teas from the Zhejiang region, my personal strongest preference goes to Kaihua Longding. To me it is an alternative to a shot of single malt in a heavy evening, or an afternoon kick of espresso. Its pleasant aftertaste is paralleled by neither.
Since encountering the true quality of this tea, I have always wanted to put it in my collection, only to be refrained from extraordinary high asking prices. Genuine ones are rare after all. It has been extremely fortunate, after 13 years, to have located our current farmer willing to sell at this affordable price so we can offer it here to you.
Tea Hong’s Dragon Tip is Kaihua Longding at its very best.