Sourcing Trip 2018 - China

Reuniting with Mr. Liao in Wuyi Mountain, China, for our sixth year in business partnership together, feels like coming home. As Silver Needle Tea Co’s first tea estate, they hold a special place in our history. Mr. Liao shares a tasting of their newest harvest. Many of our bestsellers, Big Red Robe, Wuyi Mountain Black Tea and Golden Beautiful Eyebrow, come from Wuyi Mountain.

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The rows of tea bushes right below this mountain are transformed into our Golden Beautiful Eyebrow. This close-up belies the intense 7000 ft. elevation - more than an hour drive upwards. As the elevation rises, so does the air quality and soil make-up. With a sub-tropical climate, Wuyi Mountain offers the most ideal growing place. While teas do survive in a broad range of conditions, the best quality tea leaves thrive in subtropical climates with some seasonality, like Wuyi Mountain and our other estates in Taiwan.

Wuyi Mountain

Wuyi Mountain

Loving every intoxicating inhalation of tea leaves on Wuyi Mountain!

Loving every intoxicating inhalation of tea leaves on Wuyi Mountain!

Tea dreaming…

Tea dreaming…

Most of our teas from Wuyi Mountain are hidden between mountains, shaded by trees. This ensures protection, so the leaves retain vital moisture. After an hour drive and 30-minute walk across several ancient wooden panel bridges, we reach these magical seas of tea. Hiking my way up the mountains was quite challenging, and I kept remembering the strength of the tea pluckers, walking out here with their tools and baskets. How lucky to be surrounded by a pristine natural environment where every breath is filled with the scent of fresh tea leaves!

Sourcing Trip 2018 - Taiwan

From inception, my mission for Silver Needle Tea Co. is to share my favorite teas from Asia, the origin of Camellia sinensis, and highlight the land, terroir, and people that nourish them. I hope you glimpse a sense of place and wonder at the elements at work that cultivate some of the best teas in the world, from the rolling hills and pristine waters to multi-generational family farms at elevations so high you feel like you could almost touch the sky. These annual pilgrimages encourage vital remembrance and reconnection with our tea partners and the sacred natural forces and alchemy we honor with every sip.

View of our Pingling tea estate in Taiwan.

Here’s an intimate view of the verdant tea gardens from the owner’s home. The pure air, water, and rich soil infuse earthy elements into our High Mountain Oolong.

Here’s an intimate view of the verdant tea gardens from the owner’s home. The pure air, water, and rich soil infuse earthy elements into our High Mountain Oolong.

Mrs. Gao, tea estate owner

Mrs. Gao, tea estate owner

After a mountainous two-hour drive from Taipei, we arrive at our newest tea estate for High Mountain Oolong in Ping Ling, Taiwan. The tea bushes flourish along the Gaoping River, a major source of drinking water for the city due to its purity. In the photo, the tea bushes sit on the terraced hill on the left while across the river to the right, the estate owner lives in the farm house with the orange tinted roof. Over 80% of residents are tea growers or involved in the tea business.

Meet the tea estate owner, Mrs. Gao. As a fourth generation tea farmer, she is a tea expert, connecting through land and family knowledge. With six daughters, she’s continuing the tradition, rarely short of help on the farm. She happily notes that now that they’re all married, each with two children, they rotate to pitch in with her 18 laborers throughout the year. Everyone comes together during harvest season.  

Mrs. Gao’s farm house.

Mrs. Gao’s farm house.

Here’s our newest tea, award-winning Oolong, Oriental Beauty, from Sanxia District in New Taipei. The International Taste & Quality Institute (iTQi) in Brussels, the world's leading independent Chefs and Sommeliers based organization dedicated to certifying the taste of food and drink products, presented this distinction.

Looking out at our Sanxia tea estate, you may notice that these bushes look different. The bushes are spaced with more distance from each other to allow farmers to move between them and hand pick. This estate does not use tea picking machines. Tea machinese were invented in the 1950’s and by the 1970’s, most tea farms utilized them in some capacity to cut costs and expedite the harvest. However, the highest quality tea leaves must be hand picked to ensure the top three leaves are intact.

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Mr. Lee works in the tea house, a few steps from the processing center. He’s the face of the company, communicating with vendors, while his brother is the tea master, overseeing the processing center, monitoring the production, and ensuring every batch is made to the highest standard.   

Mr. Lee’s tea pluckers head to the mountains. Their days often begin early and conclude by noon because the leaves moist with morning dew ensure the best state for production of unmatchable flavor.

Mr. Lee’s tea pluckers head to the mountains. Their days often begin early and conclude by noon because the leaves moist with morning dew ensure the best state for production of unmatchable flavor.

Sourcing Trip 2017 - Wuyi Mountain, China

Silver Needle Tea Co. was first imagined here in Wuyi Mountain, China. The splendor inspired my vision and lifelong journey with tea. No matter how many times I return, I'm constantly in awe of the beauty. The grandeur of the mountains is uplifting and energizing. And every time I leave, I dream of new ways to share the experience with more people. These lush green leaves produce our  Big Red Robe  (Da Hong Pao),  Golden Beautiful Eyebrow  (Jin Jun Mei), and  Wuyi Mountain Black Tea .

Silver Needle Tea Co. was first imagined here in Wuyi Mountain, China. The splendor inspired my vision and lifelong journey with tea. No matter how many times I return, I'm constantly in awe of the beauty. The grandeur of the mountains is uplifting and energizing. And every time I leave, I dream of new ways to share the experience with more people. These lush green leaves produce our Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao), Golden Beautiful Eyebrow (Jin Jun Mei), and Wuyi Mountain Black Tea.

The morning sun beams down as I pluck tea leaves with the owner of the tea estate. Harvest season, typically in April and May, coincides with our visit. Hard-working collectors gather leaves by hand, all day long. Leaves are picked depending on location, and the entire mountain is harvested in a month's time. Reaping in spring produces more rich and condensed leaves with specific taste profiles.  

The morning sun beams down as I pluck tea leaves with the owner of the tea estate. Harvest season, typically in April and May, coincides with our visit. Hard-working collectors gather leaves by hand, all day long. Leaves are picked depending on location, and the entire mountain is harvested in a month's time. Reaping in spring produces more rich and condensed leaves with specific taste profiles.  

These white spots reveal age, indicating that this tea bush is about 40 years old.

These white spots reveal age, indicating that this tea bush is about 40 years old.

Five kilograms of green leaves will produce one kilogram of leaves for tea.  

Five kilograms of green leaves will produce one kilogram of leaves for tea.  

After withering or air drying, the leaves are rolled and bruised in a machine. Holes in the bottom release impurities.

After withering or air drying, the leaves are rolled and bruised in a machine. Holes in the bottom release impurities.

Then the leaves are oxidized in an oven-like machine and left out to dry. Depending on the tea type and desired taste profile, the tea master will repeat the process with the same leaves many times over a period of months.  

Then the leaves are oxidized in an oven-like machine and left out to dry. Depending on the tea type and desired taste profile, the tea master will repeat the process with the same leaves many times over a period of months.  

At long last, tasting from the recent harvest. With a deeper understanding of how much work creates each tea, I appreciate every drop. Enjoy our newest tea from Wuyi Mountain:  Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao) ,  Wuyi Mountain Black Tea , and  Golden Beautiful Eyebrow (Jin Jun Mei) .

At long last, tasting from the recent harvest. With a deeper understanding of how much work creates each tea, I appreciate every drop. Enjoy our newest tea from Wuyi Mountain: Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao), Wuyi Mountain Black Tea, and Golden Beautiful Eyebrow (Jin Jun Mei).