Master Zhang is a young White Tea producer in Fuding. While he is new to tea, his passion is deep. When we asked him if he comes from a tea making family, he told us that his dad is a mechanical engineer, and Zhang got into tea as a hobby that turned into a full-on passion.
He reminds us a bit of a mad scientist, the way he talks about the tea making process. Not only has he developed new methods to allow tea enzymes to blend aromas and flavors with each other, but he has also invented new tea production machines!
Zhang works in cooperation with a woman with a Organic White Tea farm in Taimushan.
Mrs. Wen is from a tea farming family and has deep roots in the Taimushan area. Her family has been producing tea for generations, and they can prove it by having a large plot of older, heirloom white tea (also called Caicha or sometimes Gongmei).
We had a chance to visit this farm with a few friends here in China. We got to experience picking the tea, eating local food, and making the tea as well. (A friend of ours made a YouTube video about it, which you can check out here!)
Zhang takes the making of tea to a hard science. His facilities are modern and incredibly clean. He has a very large sun drying area for the fresh white tea, he has indoor heated rooms for when the tea gets too light to be sun dried in the windy air above the facility, and he has a special room wherein he ‘blends’ the tea.
By blending, we don’t just mean mixing, what Zhang is doing is an enzyme-level alteration of the flavors of different batches of tea. By taking several different days worth of tea harvested from different gardens or areas and placing them in large piles (over 50kg in each pile), he says that he is able to use the living enzymes in the different teas to help the whole pile harmonize and take on a more homogenous aroma and flavor. He calls this process “Yangcha” “养茶”.
In addition to this Yangcha method, Zhang is also a firm believer in charcaol roasting his teas. Traditionally only Silver Needle teas are charcoal roasted, as this process can be lengthy and traditional baskets can only roast 3 to 6 pounds of tea at a time. Zhang however, with the help of his mechanical engineer father, has designed and constructed several new machines to help him charcoal roast many kilograms of tea at a time.
The result is that Zhang charcoal roasts all of his teas, believing that this more natural finishing (instead of gas heat in a baking machine) give his teas a more smooth mouthfeel and will improve their aging potential.
We are exciting to work more with Zhang in the future, and have already commissioned several tea cakes to be pressed in the fall of 2021!