Currently, the Feng family serves the Mountains and Rivers Cooperative as one of the main production households. The Feng family has registered as an official household “farm” for tea cultivation and processing. We can confidently assert that when we speak of the farmer, the picker, the maker, and the seller, we are speaking of one family. Master Feng, the head of the household, is a tea master in the truest sense. He enjoys the respect and commerce of his peers, and has been invited to international tea events out of recognition for his skill. Processors like him are rare, and in the future will become even rarer. His daughter, nicknamed Hui, expects to close shop and sell off all the equipment once her parents pass away. She has no interest in the industry and doubts that any local young person does.
At this point, although they still enjoy a form of crop insurance from the local government, Master Feng and his wife are fully independent from the cooperative. Their business is, however, still deeply intertwined with the local community. Households inside and outside of the cooperative bring their tea to the Feng family for processing. Basket by basket, they roast the tea with the skills that they have gained from decades in the industry.
Master Feng has been processing the Cooperatives Luyangchun green tea since the 90s and charges 36RMB per 500 grams of tea that he processes. To our ears this is an incredibly fair price when the cooperative boasts of paying its pickers up to 130RMB per 500g of Mingqian tea. The amount of tea that Master Feng processes means that his family doesn't necessarily need to grow and make their own tea; however, they continue to do just that every year.
Master Feng's daughter told us that their family owns just under 3 mu of tea fields (roughly 0.5 acres). In the grand scheme of the Cooperative's production, the amount of finished tea the Feng's produce is negligible, which is why they have registered as an independent household instead of trying to sell such a small quantity of tea through the larger cooperative. We were able to acquire a few jin of this years tea, and are proud to offer it to the Western market as an honest example of tea grown for passion, not for profit, picked and produced by a family that has seen substantial life improvements through the production of tea.
Making tea by hand is hard work - hard work that fewer and fewer people are willing to master. By marketing the small quantity of tea that the Feng family grows and processes themselves we hope to help support an aging master continue his trade from the rest of his years. Thank you for your support, and we hope that you can see and taste the undiluted care and passion behind Master Feng's teas.
Here is the view of the Feng Family processing household of the Mountains and Rivers Cooperative in Yangzhou.
Here Master Feng appraises tea that has just passed through the bruising machine. After nearly 30 years of processing Luyangchun he can tell by sight and feel when the tea has been sufficiently softened and macerated, before it undergoes its final electric-wok frying.
Here is Master Feng's wife performing the final processing step for the green tea: evenly frying it in an electric wok. She doesn't press the tea flat against the sides like they do for dragonwell, nor does she squeeze and twist the leaves as they do for biluochun. She simply stirs and mixes the tea leaves to ensure an even heat.