Secret Village - A great tea from Tong Mu Guan
Think of a favorite drink - wine, beer, whisky. Nearly all of the producers of these drinks have a side industry of tourism, inviting their fans to learn more about the process, see how it's made and enjoy some sips in enjoyable settings.
While some tea plantations do offer similar tourism opportunities, this particular tea's origin doesn't make that possible. In fact, should you visit the village of Tong Mu Guan without prior approval, you may be apprehended by authorities!
Great tea starts with history
This secret village known as Tong Mu Guan is one of eight mountain passes in Wu-Yi China. It is where the original souchong black tea that founded European tea culture came from. Founded in the mid 1600's, the area wasn't suitable for normal agriculture. But it had the environment for growing great tea. In 1848, Scottish explorer and botanist Robert Fortune visited Tong Mu Guan and collected the seeds of these plants and learned the art of tea making. While the seeds he took to India failed to flourish, his knowledge of tea cultivation helped expand tea production and aided in the expansion of the East India Trading Company.
While the tea transported to India was commoditized, Tong Mu continued to evolve and develop high quality, artisanal teas. It never grew large, nor will it. The eventual opening up of international markets now created a demand for quality and nuance, which grows just as fast as China's global influence.
Great tea means great geography
Tong mu is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is a heavily forested area known for a large diversity of birds, insects and reptiles. Because of the mountain fed springs and sensitive natural area, only those with a permit are allowed to visit this limited access area. The high mountains, dense pine forests and many misty mornings provide excellent tea growing conditions.
Distinctive tea for discerning taste buds
Zhen Shan Xiao Zhong is usually smoked, which gives the famous Lapsang Souchong it's distinctive smokey flavor. But this tea skips the smoking step. The Hua Xiang means floral fragrance. This version is hand processed, with a lovely coarse rolled leaf structure. The evidence of mineral undertones hits you initially, but you'll immediately experience a wave of sweet, fruity notes - an almost citrus like punch. Unlike the English tea that evolved from this area, designed to work with milk - this tea is in a class of it's owned, designed to be savored like a fine scotch. And with any high quality tea, this great tea can be steeped many times.