The Lin Family
The Lin Family is our chosen partner for low mountain Dancong tea. Unlike our other two producers, they do not posses a storefront in town or formal recognition as any sort of enterprise. Hence, we have labeled them as the Lin Family, a group of closely related clansmen who collaborate in tea production. Specifically, we are marketing tea from Lin Yuezhen and his brother-in-law Lin Chuancheng.
Lin Yuezhen, Lin Chuancheng and Lin Shaohui (Chuangcheng’s father) possess together 90 mu of tea fields. These three clansmen and their families derive most of their living from tea production. However, all of them have diversified their income source at one time or another. Lin Yuezhen spent some of his youth working in the city, Lin Chuancheng sells homemade baijiu alongside his tea, and Lin Shaohui, who is now in his sixties, generates some income from renting out his strip of land to an organization of local tea producers. This sort of diversification is typical among small-scale farmers worldwide and stands in stark contrast to the specialization that has occurred on China’s larger tea operations.
Above is Mr. Lin processing tea in his home.
Above is Master Wei in his much larger production facility.
According to another producer we had met, Dancong tea harvested at elevations between 300 and 500 meters above sea level is considered low mountain, tea picked at elevations between 500 and 900 is considered mid-mountain, and anything picked above 900 meters is high-mountain. Thus, sitting on a slight hill just north of the village, which is itself measured at 380 meters, the Lin family’s tea fields are safely in the range of Low Mountain.
Above is a picture of a tea picker during winter harvest in the Lin family's low-mountain tea garden.
Above is Master Wei's high-garden tea plot.
Above is a small plot of green tea (Luyangchun) grown at low elevation outside of Yangzhou.
The primary varietal grown there is Dawuye, with varietals such as Milanxiang, Yashixiang, and Xiongdi also in cultivation. Regardless of the varietal, all of these bushes are kept in short neat rows, similar to how tea is cultivated in green-tea producing areas. Similar to our mid-level producers, the Lin Family utilizes pruning, fertilizer, grafting, and a certain amount of persticides. On the more organic side of things, they also intentionally spread cut branches in between the rows, so as to limit the spread of weeds.
Unlike further up the mountain, picks are divided into five throughout the year: Early Spring(March), Late Spring(May), Summer(July), Autumn(September), and Winter(November). Of these five periods, Late Spring and Winter are when the largest quantities of tea are picked.
Although the mainstay of the picking and process is done by the Lin family themselves, a significant amount of outside labor is hired in the busier seasons. Day wages for such labor was quoted at 100+ by Lin Yuezhen, 100-300 by Lin Chuancheng, and 180 by Lin Shaohui.
Generally speaking, the tea they sell is unfinished. It is maocha, which is sold to teashops and wholesalers who will roast it further, finishing it to their own specifications. We have purchased a small amount of Mr. Lin's maocha to sell on the site as in interesting learning experience (we also enjoy drinking it very much).
We plan to return to the Lin Family next Spring in order to better understand their processing methods and labor conditions.