Meet Sweet Vermilion black tea from Tongmu.

Newsletter Archive Feb. 25, 2022

Three bamboo trays of dry black tea arranged in a fan next to an ornate enameled green gaiwan, a set of wooden tea tweezers, and a small porcelain cup of brewed tea.
Three different black teas demonstrating the wide variety found in the style: the compact dark leaves of Chi Gan (right), the fluffy shape and soft color of sun-dried Youle Xiaoshu (middle), and the thin fuzzy golden buds of Jinya (left).

There’s a new micro-lot selection among our black teas. Welcome Chi Gan (Sweet Vermilion) from Wu Jianming: the innovative tea maker behind Zui Chun Fang (Drunken Peach) and Tongmu Lapsang Souchong. If you’ve followed Seven Cups’ black tea selection for a while, you know Wu Jianming is a tea maker who pushes the expectations of his craft. In his Chi Gan (Sweet Vermilion) you’ll find something more familiar – this is Chinese black tea in classic form. Late spring leaves give off a winey, deep red sweetness balanced with a drying charge of tannins. Its later harvest also makes this tea pretty affordable, especially for their fancy origin of pristine Tongmu.

A man pulling a large round bamboo tray out from a rack of many others to check the tea leaves spread on it.
Wu Jianming checking the tea leaves as they wither.

While the villagers of Tongmu invented black tea in the 17th century, it was only recently that the renaissance of high-end black tea in China brought significant prosperity to this isolated mountain pass and its tea makers.

The hardship of times past is very much alive in the memories of the village’s older generations. Wu Jianming’s mother recalls a time when Tongmu was so renowned for poverty, young women were discouraged from marrying into families there. Liang Junde, now one of Tongmu’s most celebrated tea makers for his part in inventing Jin Jun Mei, came from such hardship that when he and his wife married, he moved to live with her parents – the opposite of the traditional arrangement. Well into the 20th century, Tongmu’s tea was still carried down the mountain on foot.

Things have certainly changed for the better, and not only in Tongmu. Black tea origins and tea makers are getting the attention they deserve. Don’t miss this chance to try what they have to offer.

Subscribers of the Tasting Flight will recognize Chi Gan from the advance release they got in their delivery last November. If you’re not already a subscriber and like getting to try limited releases before anyone else, consider signing up. We’ve got some fantastic teas planned this year.