Have you met Purple Bamboo and The Grandma Squad?

Newsletter Archive May 7, 2021

A smiling older woman in an apron and carrying a woven basket for Guzhu Zisun green tea leaves, standing between tea bushes and some bamboo.
Tea master Pei Hongfeng harvesting Guzhu Zisun (Purple Bamboo Shoot) tea leaves in the bamboo forest behind her house.

Every year, just in time for Mother’s Day, we feature the fresh arrival of Guzhu Zisun (Purple Bamboo Shoot), a traditional green tea made by a squad of mothers and grandmothers. It’s only appropriate we continue. As of this year, the head of the operation, Ms. Pei Hongfeng, is now a great grandmother.

Keen and industrious as ever, Ms. Pei continues to make something extraordinary.

Ms. Pei owns one of the most beautiful and unusual tea gardens we’ve ever seen: A scant 1.6 acre grove of old seed tea bushes, growing under the sun-dappled canopy of a bamboo forest. This is deep countryside tea. A different universe than large-scale commercial tea production. Bushes are untended. They share soil, sunshine, and water with the thick grove of bamboo and underbrush. There’s no interest in optimizing for high-yield here. No new cultivars or cutting edge agriculture. It’s just tea, rampant and pristine as it comes.

Ms. Pei harvests her bushes once a year, organizing her family and neighbors to pluck only as much tea as she has orders for. This year they harvested for just 5 days, beginning on April 3rd.

Three women in a clearing among tall trees and bamboo forest, plucking tea from bushes almost as tall as they are.
Tea master Pei Hongfeng (right), her daughter-in-law (left), and her next-door neighbor (center) plucking Guzhu Zisun in the forest. Take a walk through Ms. Pei’s garden with us in this short video.

Like many countryside women, Pei Hongfeng’s career has been largely influenced by her husband’s family trade, living with them on the edge of Changxing County where the main agricultural crops grown are bamboo and tea. She began her tea career around 20 years old, learning the techniques for plucking fresh tea leaves by hand and how to cultivate the local variety of tea plant from seed in the bamboo forest where the tea garden grows. Later on, she learned how to maintain the fire to heat the wok while her husband fried the tea. Eventually, she also learned the techniques for frying, roasting, and all other steps of producing green tea over the decades. As of 2021, she has been in the tea trade for over 50 years.

Several wet leaves of Guzhu Zisun tea displayed on a gaiwan lid with their leaves spread out, next to a full gaiwan of brewing leaves and a glass pitcher on a wooden surface.
Lush variety of pluckings of this year’s fresh Purple Bamboo Shoot.

Even after Pei Hongfeng’s husband’s passage, she has become highly respected as a master tea maker in her own right, as well as a local community leader. Every spring, she helps support her community by hiring local women who cannot travel far for extra jobs or income to harvest the tea. Some of them, like her 80 year old next-door-neighbor return to help every year. Pei Hongfeng is now teaching her tea expertise to her daughter-in-law and grandson. As always, we’re both grateful and proud to be able to bring you this true rarity of a tea from this tea matriarch and her family.

Even more 2021 teas from the early-spring season are here, including the long-awaited Tai Ping Houkui and Lu’an Gua Pian.