What green tea isn’t green? A micro-lot from a family that returned to tea.

Newsletter Archive Jul. 9, 2021

A grinning young child leaning over the edge of a basket to grab a big handful of withering tea leaves and hold them to his face to smell.
Tea master Yu Shunhu’s grandson learning what withering tea leaves smell like.

This week brings our last micro-lot of green tea for the year. Welcome Huang Jin Ye, a brilliant yellow-colored green tea made from the rare “Golden Leaf” cultivar of tea plant. It’s made by the innovative Yu Shunhu — the Anji County tea maker behind our Anji Hong and Yu Qian Anji Baicha. Get both this micro-lot of Huang Jin Ye and Yu Qian Anji Baicha for 20% off this weekend.

A scattering of fresh plucked buds and leaves that are bright yellow with traces of green along the stems and veins, spread on wire mesh to wither.
Golden fresh leaves and buds from the Huang Jin Ye cultivar tea plant.

Mr. Yu Shunhu was born into a hard-working countryside tea family. He started processing tea at 15, working under his mother’s instruction. He was good at it, but farming is a hard and precarious life. When he became a father, he dreamed of a future for his daughter where she wasn’t bound to tea. He financed her education in the city with the hope it would give her more options, new roads in life. His daughter began her studies in the early 2000s, just as the market for tea started to change everything in Anji County.

Mr. Yu’s daughter finished her education, married a well-educated and cosmopolitan city-dweller, and started a family. However, seeing Anji County’s tea industry enter a new era of prosperity, she chose to bring her family back home. It was a different road than her dad had taken, but in the end, she chose not to leave the family business.

Mr. Yu now has a four-year-old grandson named after him. He proudly wants the boy to learn tea making, and is already introducing him to the smells of withering tea leaves and their feeling in the hands.

Next to a large basket full of tea on the floor, a crouching man and a toddler pick up handfuls of leaves to smell. 
Tea master Yu Shunhu showing his grandson how to smell the tea. He’s doing great!

The success of China’s high-end tea market offers an inversion of a story we’re used to hearing. In China as it is in the rest of the world, the economic gravity of cities means ongoing rural-urban migration — a change that often leads to diminished agricultural communities and the loss of traditional trades and skills. Despite this, in rural areas where their tea is prized and folks have a willingness to pay a higher price for it, the traditional family business of tea production has the younger generations coming home to work in their parents’ field. Like you’ll find in other tea making families, the new generations return to the farm, bringing new skills to the traditional business.

Demand for good tea and a supply chain that supports the labor behind it makes a difference. It’s preserving traditions, livelihoods, and families in a very real way.

A hand holding up two glass pitchers of tea outdoors in the sun: one with bright yellow leaves and one with pale green.
The brilliant yellow of fresh Huang Jin Ye (left) and the pale green of Yu Qian Anji Baicha (right).