In this beautiful painting by our friend Wu De, we see Shen Nong- the progenitor of traditional Chinese medicine. He is fabled to have had a glass stomach so that he could see the physical effects of the various medicinal herbs he explored and categorized, serving as the foundation for what would later become Chinese herbalism.
On his supposed death bed-after eating a poisonous herb, a leaf blew into his water bowl and thus created the first cup of tea. The tea healed him and created the foundation for the legacies of tea we follow today. This piece created by Wu De, a tea master from Taiwan, is titled “the first sip”.
Many tea lovers know that Yunnan Province in southern China is the birthplace of all tea, but not everyone knows that the Lincang region may contain the oldest tea forest in all of Yunnan. In fact, Lincang is home to the one of the world's oldest known tea trees, some 3,200 years old. We carry tea from these beautiful old-growth trees. One tea is called Ancestor.
These days most tea that we find in tea bags is grown on plantations with agrochemicals. The tea leaves are pulverized and stuffed into little bags allowing them to give you one cup of tea. Living Teas however are seed-grown in their native environments, free of any chemical fertilizers, pesticides or weed-killers. Our passion for old-growth and aged tea inspires our continual exploration. These loose leaf teas have been treated with reverence and care in the traditional methods true to the kind of tea and so a spoon full of tea can yield anywhere from 10-20 steepings.
Tea was brought to the island of Taiwan during the mid 1600's from mainland China. The majority of the original trees came from Fujian Province, which is the bright birthplace of all Oolong, as well as many other famous teas. The tea that the early settlers brought thrived in Taiwan, especially in the mountains. The soil is rich in volcanic minerals. The mists from the sea fill the valleys and highlands with the moisture that tea loves. The humidity, temperature, rainfall, mists and clouds as well as the gravelly soil are all ideal for tea growth. The unique terroir of Taiwan fostered the growth of new varietals and farmers created new hybrids, researching the differences in search of wonderful new teas.
Living Tea seeks out aged teas from all classes or types of tea, but we have a particular penchant for Aged Puerh. And so, while we share the occasional Aged Oolong or Red Tea, this collection focuses primarily on our secret obsession. Aged Puerh tea is a Chinese dark tea produced exclusively in Yunnan province in Southwest China. Chinese dark teas are the only teas that reputedly improve with age by way of a special manufacturing process involving true fermentation. These unique teas come from a variety of tea bush called Da Ye ("large leaves"), which is peculiar to that region. The official definition of Puerh is: "Tea produced from leaves harvested from the large-leafed Da Ye tea bushes growing in Yunnan province, sun-dried and having undergone a process of fermentation, either natural (sheng) or induced (shou)." Aged Puerh, aside from its unique taste and deep Qi, is known in the West for its extraordinary health benefits.
All Puerh tea comes from Yunnan Province, a remarkable place in the Southwest of China. It is home to twenty-five percent of all species, plant and animal, in all of China. Mystic and vibrant, Yunnan is blossoming with life, rain, aroma and growth. It is the birthplace of all tea and home to more varieties of tea trees than anywhere else on earth. Yunnan is a series of stepped plateaus, the westernmost of which neighbors Tibet. The waters that flow through this region all originate within crystal mountain springs and glacial streams high up in the Himalayas. Puerh tea has deep, ancient roots in this land where the great tea journey began long, long ago.
Puerh tea is picked, withered (to oxidize and dehydrate the tea), fried (to kill green enzymes that make tea bitter and to arrest oxidation), rolled (to break down the cells and expose the inner essence of the tea), and finally sun-dried. If the tea is then left to ferment naturally, in conjunction with the endless microbes in it, we call it "sheng" or "raw" Puerh. If the tea is then piled and sprayed with water, covered with thermal blankets and turned, in order to artificially ferment it, we call it "shou" or "ripe" Puerh. The teas in this "Young Puerh" section are sheng Puerh teas that have not been left very long to age. In some cases, they may be a couple years old, but they are still considered young. The "youthfulness" of young Puerh tea is most evident in the strong, enlivening Qi that fills the body and uplifts the spirit. Also, we are better able to discern the terroir and the trees themselves because the aging process brings out the deeper essence of the trees, whereas the young trees are "greener" and still carry the characteristics of the trees and land.
In the 1970s, a style of processing called shou (or 'cooking') was developed to expedite the fermentation process. Shou processing involves the application of heat and moisture, as well as the inoculation of the tea leaves with beneficial bacteria. It takes about a year for harvested tea leaves to become 'ripened' or 'finished' pu-erh. Some 'ripened' pu-erhs are also aged for a flavor more similar to traditionally produced Sheng pu-erh. Shou Puerh is known for its robust, earthy flavor and aroma, dark, rich liquor and grounding Qi.
Our passion for old-growth and aged tea inspires our continual exploration. The name of each Living Tea speaks to an inherent quality in those particular leaves, whether it be the mountain of origin, terroir, flavor, aroma or impression.