Mr. and Mrs. Zhang (Yellow Mountain Tea)
Mr. and Mrs. Zhang are good friends of ours who grow very special wild black teas in the Yellow Mountain region. We met them back in 2011, when they were working in a tea market in the southern city of Shenzhen. Caiyou (Mrs. Zhang) and Xianna are from the same region and shared a love of Gongfu tea, so they hit it off immediately. Mr. Zhang had a shop in the same market as Caiyou, which is how he and his wife met, but he had an aching in his heart to return home. His dream has always been to save his local teas from the mass-production style that has been creeping into every aspect of production in China.
His passion for purity is one of the main influences on our decision to start bringing pure Chinese teas to America.
Mr. Zhang was born and raised into tea in the Huangshan (Yellow Mountains) region. His wife, Caiyou, is from the Chaoshan region of Guangdong Province, very close to Xianna’s hometown. They often debate about facts on tea and, quite comically, contradict each other when discussing tea.
Mr. Zhang is a tea purist, in the purest sense. His lifetime goal is to produce every tea in the Huangshan region by himself and do so without using any farming methods whatsoever. His family has been in the tea business for generations, but he is the first to try purely wild tea gathering.
While growing up in the tea business, he visited many plantations throughout the area. He noticed that most Huangshan tea farmers have special plots of land behind their mountainside homes where they allow their teas to grow freely. These semi-wild teas always tasted much finer and had many subtle notes that were lacking in the carefully-farmed, monoculture teas. He discovered that tea has the ability to soak up the essences (mainly flavors and aromas) of the plants that grow near them. He’s not sure how it happens, but he’s sure of the taste!
He also believes this ability might carry over to the molecular level, that tea plants might also soak up physical properties of neighboring plants. He believes this has an effect on the medicinal properties of teas. For example, if a wild tea happened to be growing next to a plant like ginkgo biloba, it would then contain some of the healing powers of the ginkgo plant!
He wants to bring these wild teas to the world market and offer others the chance to taste pure, wild teas, with all their subtle notes and flavors.
To do this he spent quite a lot of time searching satellite images of his hometown region and following up on rumors of potentially wild tea mountains. After mountain climbing for months, chasing every lead, he eventually he found a very old mountain tea farm that had been abandoned decades ago. He loved the look of the land and loved the fact that the whole place had gone feral once again, with many wild flowers and fruits growing among the hard-to-spot tea trees. He made an offer to the decedents of the old plantation owners, and now he’s the owner of a one-of-a-kind wild tea farm!
At the moment he only focuses on his favorite drink, Qimen Hong Cha (Keemun Black Tea), and he offers a high-mountain and low-mountain version of it. Every year he hires a team of temporary workers, and twice a year they ascend the mountain together, camping out as they search for the orange markers he’s left throughout the area. They pick the forest clean and bring the fresh leaves down on their backs to be processed into an unbelievable black tea.
His goal is to buy land in every section of Huangshan to produce all the region’s famous teas in a similarly wild fashion. We are excited to see what he comes up with next! We hope to aid him with this most noble quest, and we will continue to be friends and business partners for years to come.