Make good tea. Keep a cool head.

Newsletter Archive Aug. 13, 2021

A man in matching blue smock and pants leaning over a slightly angled wok to expertly fry fresh rock wulong tea leaves by hand.
Rock wulong tea master Liu Dexi frying leaves in the wok.

This weekend enjoy 20% off of three of our favorite rock wulongs, Ba Xian (Eight Immortals), Shuixian (Narcissus), and Laocong Shuixian (Old Bush Narcissus). Rock wulongs are good companions in summer rain storms. Their character is not far off from a grilled peach, that other summer delicacy: woodsy, fruity, sweet meadow flowers, a wisp of smoke.

Two of these teas are made by Liu Dexi, one of Wuyishan’s most prominent names in wulong. He’s not one to put on airs, though. When Andrew met Liu Dexi for the first time, Andrew couldn’t help show his admiration. “You’re a really good tea maker,” Andrew told him. “My teachers were good tea makers,” Mr. Liu replied, “I got lucky.”

A man leaning over a large woven basket to stir the large pile of leaves inside with both hands. Several other baskets surround him.
Mr. Liu mixing baskets of wulong by hand intermittently throughout their slow hours-long charcoal roasting.


This same low-key and self-effacing Mr. Liu was recently honored by the Wuyishan industry with a rare title of mastery: Representative Inheritor of Rock Wulong (Da Hong Pao) Production Skills. We couldn’t agree more. Mr. Liu really does represent what’s impressive about Wuyishan’s tea makers. Mr. Liu runs a large operation that makes tea both affordable and extraordinary, guided by his deep technical knowledge of wulong, the trickiest of teas to make. A teacher of many young tea makers himself, he venerates the old skills, but he doesn’t shun innovation. He sees finding ways to make both affordable teas and ultra-premium teas as the key to true sustainability. It’s a strategy that helps both keep the industry and many of these precious traditional skills alive in tandem.

Liu also frequently serves as an expert judge at Wuyishan’s prestigious tea making competitions, where a panel of judges gives awards not only to meticulously made ultra-premium yancha from rare origins, but also to the best teas made from more modest origins and selling at an accessable price.

As we’re enjoying 2020’s teas and waiting for 2021’s, it’s important to keep in mind that even with modern labor-saving techniques and machinery, rock wulong production can only happen so fast.

Mr. Liu in particular knows not to rush it. His tea is among the last we’re able to buy each year as he puts it through its months-long routine of roasting and resting until it has developed both depth and complexity. Patience with the process is the key ingredient.

Several cupping sets lined up on a tea table, with gaiwans being emptied into them.
Judging the quality of rock wulong mao cha with Liu Dexi.