We hope you're as excited as we are for this Tea Sommelier Kit featuring five single-origin teas that are different from our usual offerings. Some are handcrafted with labour-intensive processing in small batches, while others are a fading varietal. These are teas for the adventurous and for those who would like to spend a little more time appreciating and tasting their craftmanship. Are your senses ready? Check out our tea stories below to learn more about what's in your cup.
Here's a map to give you an idea of the journey this Exploration Kit will take you. Locations are approximate and intended to serve as a visual guide only.
Aged White Peony
Hulin village, Fuding, Fujian, China
White tea is no stranger to tea drinkers. Its delicate, almost non-tea-like flavour and aroma make it an enjoyable tea to sip down. The beauty of white tea is that it can be aged. Its flavour note would transform and deepen, a wonderful way to taste time.
Notes: sweet floral, soy milk
3g | 100ml | 95c | 20 secs
Born in a tea maker family in Fuzhou, Master Chen tried not to follow in his family’s footsteps. After getting a taste of the corporate world, he found himself hopelessly drawn back by the beauty of tea plantations and the yearning for tea production. Eventually, he returned home to answer his calling and since became an award-winning tea producer.
This white peony is from Hulin Village, the core area of Fuding and one of the best cradles for white tea. With an average elevation of 500-900 meters and surrounded by bamboo forest, it provided the perfect condition for tea. Master Chen has pressed the tea into cakes, with the intention for it to age. After 5 years the tea has developed a sweet floral note with a slight hint of soy milk in darker tea liquor and a robust mouthfeel.
Tai Ping Hou Kui
Hou Keng Village, Huang Shan, An Hui, China
One glance at Tai Ping Hou Kui might easily be passed as a dried vegetable. A uniquely shaped green tea, this peculiar-looking tea is certainly leaving an impression not just by its look but by its delicate orchid aroma and flavour, quite different from what one might expect from a green tea.
Notes: orchid, sweet
3g | 100ml | 85c | 1-2 mins
Master Di’s family has been planting and producing Tai Ping Hou Kui for 60 years and she is now the fourth generation to continue with this craft. They pride themselves on preserving the entire process by hand that’s true to its traditional form. Their dedication has been recognized by the government as the intangible cultural heritage inheritor of Tai Ping Kou Kui’s production.
To achieve this unique shape, the tea maker would have to select and shape the tea leaves one by one by hand, then lay them onto baskets for flattening with rice papers while going through multiple rounds of charcoal roasting.
This Tai Ping Hou Kui was harvested post Qing Ming on April 14, as mature leaves are desired. Don’t be fooled by the big leaf appearance though as it is a green tea that’s surprisingly aromatic with very little bitterness. Besides the special Shidaye (柿大茶) tea varietal, its delicate flavour is also the product of its terroir - growing at 800m elevator, this tea is grown on the shaded side of the mountain (陰面山). The indirect sunlight and the misty weather formulated the sweetness of this tea. Lastly, the tea plants are only picked once a year, which ensured maximum flavour is able to develop for spring harvest.
Yong Xi Huo Qing
Yong Xi Village, Xuan Cheng, An Hui, China
Appeared into the tea scene in the Ming Dynasty (the 1500s), Yong Xi Huo Qing has once been loved by many, even selected as one of the tribute teas in the Qing Dynasty. Perhaps it has a rather restrained characteristic, by the end of the Qing Dynasty, it slowly dropped off from the tea radar. It slowly came back into production in the 50s and steadily reappeared in people’s teacups.
Notes: floral, sweet
3g | 120ml | 80c | 40 secs
Master Liu is the 4th generation Yong Xi Huo Qing producer in his family. He has been a loyal disciple to his father who is still the chief tea maker for their tea. Even though they have acquired machinery to relieve them from part of the laborious process, many of the crucial steps are still following the traditions - including the potting process (掰老鍋) where tea is shaped and roasted for 15 hours straight.
This Yong Xi Huo Qing is harvested and processed in Spring 2022. At first brew, one might be surprised at how light the tea tastes, especially green tea. In subsequent infusions, its true colour would reveal when the tightly rolled up tea unfurled into something soft and flower-like, be it its look or its taste. Maybe this is a way to remind us to slow down while enjoying this tea - a tea that required tea pickers to track hours up the pristine mountain.
Hong Xin Tie Guan Yin
Xia Chun Village, Anxi, Fujian, China
Tie Guan Yin or Iron Goddess of Mercy is probably one of the most well-known oolongs. So how did this one make it to this special collection? It all comes down to its varietal - Hong Xin 紅心 (red heart).
Notes: delicate floral, sweet aftertaste
8g | 120ml | 100c | 10 secs
Master Wang is the 3rd generation tea producer in Anxi, the birthplace of Tie Guan Yin. He has been the apprentice of his father who’s been in the trade for over 30 years and has witnessed the rise and the fall of Tie Guan Yin. As a young generation tea maker, Master Wang has an unwavering determination to continue with the family tradition. While honing his skill in the traditional oolong techniques, he is also experimenting with black tea production and the result has been positive.
This Hong Xin Tie Guan Yin is harvested this Spring and processed in the traditional technique (正炒/正味). This technique produces a Tie Guan Yin with a delicate yet distinct flavour, which required much more skill to appreciate it. Nevertheless, this type of Tie Guan Yin can be found in competition and experienced tea drinkers’ lists.
The full name of this Hong Xin varietal is 红心歪尾桃, which loosely translated as red heart tilted peach tail. Sounds a bit peculiar but if you see the tea plant, you can see all the features encapsulated in its name. This varietal is the original Tie Guan Yin yet it’s getting less and less popular, as it’s a demanding varietal with lesser yield and success rate. But to Master Wang and his family, they matter-of-factly insisted on continuing with this varietal to honour tradition.
Zhen Shan Xiao Zhong
Masu Village, Wuyishan, Fujian, China
Zhen Shan Xiao Zhong or Lapsang Souchong, THE very first black tea in the world. While smokey tea might not be everyone’s cup of tea, we are just so in love when we found a version we enjoyed. After all, not all smokey teas are made equal.
Notes: pine smoke, longan
6g | 120ml | 98c | 5-10 secs
Master Gong is one of the 30+ families living in Masu Village, a sub-tropical forest that’s been blessed to nurture many plants, including tea plants. Situated within Tong Mu, the national nature reserve, no outsiders are allowed freely. The Gong family has been producing tea for generations and because of the challenging terroir, they have always been growing tea semi-wildly or organically.
This Zhen Shan Xiao Zhong is produced in 2021. Masu, being the village with the highest elevation within Tong Mu (1,800m), has always been known to have the top-quality tea leaves. The varietal for Zhen Shan Xiao Zhong is the Cai Cha (菜茶), also known as Qi Zhong (奇種). Since they are grown wildly under sexual propagation for a long time, this varietal contained many different characteristics and flavour profiles.
One of the most crucial steps for smokey Zhen Shann Xiao Zhong of course is smoking. Since the area is a nature reserve, tree chopping is prohibited. Some tea producers might import pine wood from the outside, but Master Gong insisted on salvaging fallen trees within the area for the best and most genuine result. The roasted tea leaves would go through an 18-hour pine smoking in a purpose-built structure called Qing Lou (青樓). This hours-long process ensured the smokiness is well permeated and blended with the tea.
When you brew up this tea, be prepared to be greeted by a clean smokiness, when other flavouring profiles will slowly unveil from the background.