Meet Tongmu’s newest oldest black tea maker.

Newsletter Archive Jul. 16, 2021

A man leaning over a table to sprinkle handfuls of fresh tea buds over the ventilated table's surface.
Tongmu tea master Wu Jianming spreading fresh tea leaves for withering.

The new 2021 crop of the world’s oldest black tea is here: the delicately pine-smoked Tongmu Lapsang Souchong. Also in stock is a small lot of 2021 Tongmu Zui Chun Fang (Drunken Peach), a new approach to black tea made with slow and gradual oxidation techniques borrowed from Wulong tea making.

Both of these Tongmu-grown black teas are made by Wu Jianming, an old friend of Seven Cups who’s recently found himself at the vanguard of Tongmu’s next generation of tea makers.

Before Wu Jianming made tea, he did a lot of things. He was a soldier in the army, then an office manager, and after that, he actually worked for Seven Cups operations in China. Austin hired him in 2004 and the two of them spent the next few years visiting tea makers from one side of China to the other. Jianming found himself traveling everywhere from government offices in Hangzhou to the rainforest highlands of Xishuangbanna in Yunnan.

This experience proved to be pivotal for Jianming. In the early 2000’s, China’s tea industry was much more fragmented than it is today. Very few people were making private trips to tea origins across the country. Although Jianming himself had grown up in Tongmu — his house right next door to the old tea factory no less — he hadn’t ever considered what the tea industry was like elsewhere. After getting a high-level view, Jianming now sensed the budding promise of high-end tea and prestige for tea makers who were bold enough to be innovative.

A stone bridge leading to an old building with three floors and open wooden balconies in a green forested valley.
The old Tongmu tea factory for producing Lapsang Souchong.

After the birth of twin sons, Jianming started a new career where he could be close to his family. He returned to Tongmu and learned to make black tea as an apprentice under Liang Junde, the inventor of Jin Jun Mei, the world’s most prestigious (and expensive) black tea. He then studied wulong tea making under Liu Guoying, Wuyishan’s eminent Rock Wulong master. Mr. Wu’s deep understanding of both styles shows up in his tea, especially in the hybrid techniques he invented for Zui Chun Fang (Drunken Peach).

We hope you’ll take this chance to get to know Tongmu and Wu Jianming in our favorite way: brewing yourself a cup of really good tea.

Two men in white coats standing before a stainless steel tea table, each pouring one tea out of its judging cup into a small bowl for tasting.
Wu Jianming (left) and Liang Junde (right) judging teas together at a competition.