To a new year, new tea, and old friendships.

Newsletter Archive Dec. 31, 2021

Three people smiling and talking while trying tea at a table in an outdoor tent.
Mr. Liu Guoying (left) and Austin (middle) tasting rock wulong teas together at the Zhuxi Cup cross-strait wulong competition in Wuyishan in 2018.

With a close to the year, comes one final tea – Mr. Liu’s 2021 Da Hong Pao. This weekend, we’re featuring it and all of Wuyishan’s “four famous” rock wulong. That includes 2021’s production of Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe), Shui Jin Gui (Golden Water Turtle), Tie Luo Han (Iron Monk), and Bai Ji Guan (White Rooster Crest).

Liu Guoying is arguably the most influential maker of rock wulong working today. We’ve called him the guy who wrote the book on making rock wulong. He is recognized with the title of National-Level Inheritor of Intangible Cultural Heritage from China’s Ministry of Culture. At a fairly young age of 54, he’s known throughout Wuyishan as “teacher” and “old Liu.” We’re proud to also call him an old friend.

A man in a formal red jacket shaking a round bamboo tray to toss the tea leaves on it back and forth.
Rock wulong maker Liu Guoying performing the traditional tray-shaking technique of wulong oxidation by hand.

Austin and Liu first crossed paths nearly 20 years ago, back when Liu was an eager student of Yao Yueming. In the time since, the two have shared some memorable experiences together. They careened around mountain roads together in Liu Guoying’s first car, saw the construction of Liu’s own tea factory. Liu even asked Austin to choose an English name for his daughter, Gabriella, who’s since grown up to study in the United States and now practices law in Beijing. Austin and Liu have kept a friendship through nearly two decades of challenges and achievements in work and life (not to mention massive changes in the tea industry of Wuyishan). The friendship started and continues not simply because of doing business together but rather because of a shared passion for expanding the world’s esteem of Chinese tea’s culture and the availability of well-made tea.

With Mr. Liu’s rise to recognition, the tea from Mr. Liu’s factory, Yanshang Tea Research Institute, is now sold almost entirely under exclusive contracts with tea shops within China. Somehow we’ve remained an exception in that we’ve continued to purchase his tea not by any special contract but through the course of friendship.

Here’s a toast to a new year and old friendships. We hope you’ll celebrate with us.

By the way – If you’re interested in rock wulong cultivars, January’s Tasting Flight subscription has an advance release of a special micro-lot for you. If you’re REALLY interested in the range of techniques and styles among rock wulong makers, The Origin Series is scheduled to kick off soon with a collection of five Da Hong Pao, each from a different master tea maker.

Thank you for staying with us. We look forward to sharing tea with you for another year.

A man in a tea processing warehouse squatting down to examine a few trays of withering tea leaves, with racks of dozens more trays behind him.
Liu Guoying hard at work.