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I’ve wanted to add Dragon Well tea to our product line from the start. But I couldn’t find one I felt good about. If you’ve been following my series on this Dragon Well tea, then you already know that most Dragon Wells teas are mass-produced. Only the highest elevation producers are above the pollution line and the handful of still pristine small farms, have such huge reputations within China itself that their production is snapped up by government officials and nouveau riche for outrageous prices (think $1000 per pound or more kind of prices).

Last year, through a friend of a friend I met a retired tea farmer, Mr. Rao. (Just call me “Bird” he said.) He had just turned his operation over to his daughter after more than 70 years in the business and was at loose ends for the first time in his life. He promised to keep an eye out for authentic local tea producers. Last Autumn he Skyped me with a find.

(Side note: I love that we live in a time when an 80 year-old Chinese man can call me from China on his computer with his granddaughter sitting next to him to translate. We live in amazing times!)

He’d wandered pretty far afield for this tea but I think he scored! In Chunan county of Zhejiang province, on a remote mountainside 4,265 ft in elevation is an abandoned state-owned tea field with tea trees over 100 years old. How the field came into state hands is a matter of much angry dispute but the reasons for abandoning the field are well understood. The tea fields are remote with no good roads. The effort and costs of bringing in workers to harvest and then transporting the fresh leaves back for roasting was just too much to interest any of the commercial producers.
Three years ago a local farmer’s cooperative got permission to harvest this field. Some of the cooperative’s members were the original landholders and they assure me that no pesticides or fertilizers have ever been used in these fields. (We had the samples we received tested by the Eurofin lab and confirmed there are no traces of chemicals. )

The first years were harder than they thought. The pickers rise around 3am and hike for 3 hours to the field. The trees are over-grown (averaging about 5 ft tall) so picking is more difficult. The first couple of years they had to cut down some branches to harvest the new growth. Now the trees are pruned a bit so it’s becoming more manageable. They pick until mid-morning then hike back down the mountain to a temporary drying and roasting station.
There, the tea is dried overnight on bamboo mats. The next day, Mr. Zhang (shown here), hand roasts the tea in a two-stage process. He uses his bare hands to constantly stir and press the leaves against the side of wok. He happily rattled off a list of precise motions he learned from his father that he says are essential to getting exactly the right flavor, shape and texture. The wok itself is coated in a “tea wax” to prevent scorching the delicate leaves.

The farmer’s cooperative is comprised of 8 families from the same village in Chunan. As I understand it, collectively they represent every family of the village. The average income in their village is a little less than $100/month.

The optimism around producing a fine tea from this abandoned tea field in palpable. Through a translator, I talked with Mrs. Wang, an irrepressible woman of undefined age, honestly she could be anywhere between 50 and 70.

She calculates that, with some improvements, they can produce as much as 500 lbs. per year. “I really hope some day you are able to buy all that we produce. It would make us very proud to know our tea was all going to America.” Then she smiled and added, “Besides, you pay better than the tea brokers.”

I asked what they will do with the extra income. She looked off to the horizon. I could see she was picturing a brighter future in her mind’s eye. I felt sure she’d say something inspiring like “build a school” or “start a clinic.” Mrs. Wang sighed , “Oh, I really hope we can buy a truck.”

I’ve had occasion to hitch a ride in the kind of Chinese truck typical on these rural back roads. All I can say is, to each is own.

If you want to help Mrs. Wang buy a truck, oh, and help save the craft of artisan produced teas, this is your chance to get in on the ground floor. You’ll get some of the best green tea in the world and save a bunch of money in the process.

Here’s the deal:
Until July 7, we’re crowdfunding this year’s crop by taking pre-orders for their handcrafted wild-grown Dragon Well green tea. They made up to 44 lbs available to us. Once I have your pre-orders I’ll place our order (and, if there is any left over, order some for our site).

Your pre-order is at a special discount of more than 40%. If you love the tea as much as I think you will, customers who pre-ordered will be able to purchase at the pre-order price until we run out.

I can’t emphasize enough, this really is a tea that is as good or better than teas selling in China for upwards of $1000/lb. Lesser “Dragon Well” teas are sold by leading tea stores in North America for about $15/ oz. Your pre-order discount let’s you experience this amazing tea for as little as $5.43/oz!

As always, I back this with my 100% money-back guarantee. If you don’t think this tea really is worth far more than your pre-order price, just let me know and I’ll return your money in full, no questions asked. (OK, I might feel compelled to ask, “Did you brew it right?” because that’s the only reason I can imagine someone not loving this tea. )

Click the button below to grab yours! You’ll not only get some great tea, you’ll be helping preserve the craft of artisan produced tea. Pre-ordering end July 7.

FAQs:

How does it taste?

Good question! I got so busy talking about how the tea is made that I forgot to describe the finished product.

The first thing you will notice is the intensely fresh aroma. The dry leaves are redolent with the classic aromas of spring, fresh cut grass and rain.

The brewed tea is it very light. The color is a pale green and the flavor is refreshing and mild. This is typical of prized Chinese green teas. Chinese consumers prefer a milder flavor profile in their green teas whereas Westerners have come to expect a certain astringency.

This tea tastes of fresh picked hay and has a lingering mild sweetness. The texture is creamy with lots of mouth feel. There is a notable roasted chestnut flavor in the after taste that lingers long after.

What does it look like?

Authentic Dragon Well green tea is roasted by hand in woks. The leaves are pressed flat against the side of the wok giving the tea the look of tree buds preserved between the leaves of a book. These 1st harvest leaves are smaller than later harvest so expect small flat leaves with fine hairs.
When will I receive the tea?

From the day I place our order, we should receive the tea in US customs in 3-4 weeks. US custom processing times are hard to predict but typically the tea is in our warehouse about 2 weeks after that. I hope to have your tea in your hands by mid-August.

Is the tea organic?

This is a small farmer’s cooperative just getting started, so no organic certifications as yet. But this tea is wild growing and is only harvested this one time per year. The field itself is comprised of 100-year-old trees that, until three years ago, were completely abandoned. The field has never been exposed to artificial fertilizers, pesticides or chemicals of any kind.

While even the most expensive Dragon Well teas are subject to blow-over chemicals from nearby commercial operations, the remote location and high altitude of this field guarantees that this tea does not carry even the slightest chemical residue.

If you have any other questions, please email me, I’d be happy to help.

If you are ready to help us save the craft of artisanal teas and enjoy this superb tea at an huge discount, here’s the order button one last time. Please don’t miss out on our inaugural crowdfunding, order now!