Master Wei (bio)
This is the story behind how we met Master Wei, his garden, and his production methods. To jump right to his teas, click here.
We first met Master Wei back in October of 2017. Then we were in the phoenix mountains just to get our first feel for the place. In the mountainous town of the Phoenix Village there are streets and streets of tea shop after tea shop, some are wholesalers, some are only roasters, some are boutique specialists, and it can be very difficult to tell these different categories apart.
Wei’s shop back in 2017 was a tiny hole in the wall filled with boxes and boxes of tea, but one thing that drew us to his place was the community in and around it. It was bustling with people coming and going, drinking tea and laughing, kids playing outside.
This was our second day in the town and we had tried dozens of different tea houses, many with mediocre Dancong Oolong, some with exceptionally good teas. One sip from the Baxian that Wei was drinking and we knew which side of the fence he fell on. We made a plan to visit him again the next year.
In 2018 we made it down to Chaozhou in the Autumn, but Wei, with his high mountain garden, only harvests in the spring. This turned out to be a great chance to get to know the man as he drove us up to his tea fields showed us where he makes the tea and told us a lot about his history.
Master Wei is a tea-hand become master, he has lived in the village and made tea all his life, but doesn’t come from a long line of tea makers. When he was young he apprenticed with some local tea makers, but everything changed during the land redistribution act in the 1980s, this is when the government took all the land in the area that was privately held and redistributed it according to each household’s labor power. Wei, being of prime working age was allotted around 60 Mu of land (about 10 acres) parceled out in small, already established tea gardens in the Phoenix mountains (elevation ranging from 1000-1500 meters).
Since then he has done a lot of work to do the land justice and make specialized old-bush, high-mountain Dancong Oolong. He is meticulous about not pruning his trees and has allowed them to grow semi-wild since he received the land. Most of his trees are around 50 to 80 years old, with a few new gardens of more modern varietals he is working on.
His gardens are some of the most beautiful Dancong Oolong gardens we have ever seen. Wild and unpruned trees covered in moss are let to grow several meters high. Since their branches are still relatively slender, pickers can’t climb the trees to harvest the tea, but rather employ wooden ladders to reach the leaves growing in the sunlight of the canopy.
In 2019 and 2021 we visited Master Wei during peak production time, in mid to late April. His demeanor is very relaxed and he treats everyone very casually like old friends. When we visited him to watch the production method he teased us about being tired when they were shake wilting the teas until 3am, and wouldn’t let us sleep until the process was finished!
In the past 20 or 30 years of running his own processing facility, Wei has had over 20 of his own apprentices shadow his work during the peak picking and processing season.
In 2021 we spent a particularly lovely evening with him and a new apprentice drinking beers, eating dried fish, and talking about the finer points of what makes a Dancong Oolong taste a certain way due to processing.
Master Wei is one of our favorite producers up on the mountain, but his teas are very lightly processed. He focuses on high-quality Qingxiang, or Bouquet Style, Dancong Oolongs which really emphasize the delicate nature of the leaves themselves. We have found that the Western palate is not as well suited to these more delicate teas, favoring something with more roast.
Check out the current offerings we have from Master Wei!