Phoenix Collection “Fengqing Wild Black Tea”
I only met David Lee Hoffman a short month ago, at his Tea Museum in Lagunitas, which is a scenic forty five minute drive north of San Francisco. But I was already familiar with his legacy work in the specialty tea industry – having watched the Les Blank documentary that he stars in, “All in thisTea”... and of course I had heard his name countless times by others in the tea world. He basically helped pave the way and revolutionize the Western world's access to farm direct craft teas. But I suppose that's an understatement. (Oh - his puerh tea collection from his cave, is insane, by the way.)
When you sit at David's tea table, you're in for a real treat! And... the stream of fascinating people, who come and go, all pausing to sit and taste his beautifully sourced, curated collection... these seekers who gather to connect are a wonderful reflection of his genuity, passion, and openness… You cannot possibly leave David's Tea Museum, without feeling like a recipient of tea's biggest hug! Maybe it's David's careful stewardship of his leaves. Maybe it's a culmination of the collective experience. Anyway... I digress.
The tea I’m writing about today, is from David’s The Phoenix Collection “Fengqing Wild Black tea” ....it was marked "Rare and Delicious!" Last spring's harvest... Now, I am also a woman of exclamation points (when I really mean it!)... so this tea already resonated for me, haha... But one taste, and I haven't looked back. It is the one black tea that I have craved and sat with almost every morning, since. I look forward to visiting the tea's county of origin, Fengqing, of Lincang, in Yunnan, China… where, high up in the mountains of Fengqing County, in Xiang Zhu Qing village, is a massive and ancient tree, referred to as the “Mother" tea tree. This beauty is thirty five fee tall, and recorded to be over 3,200 years old… And surrounding, are her children trees that were all “planted” by mama, each hundreds or thousands of years old. The locals are said to be very protective of her, determined to preserve for future generations.
Each cup of Fengqing wild black, eases my way further along a gentle forest floor path, where I am surrounded by a natural preserve, dotted with mahogany and walnuts trees… I find grounding baseline notes of cacao and roasted walnuts, and stone fruit of cherries or apricots, which some days also feel muscatel... and then a nice earthy hint of granite at the end, when I'm lucky, depending on the steep. This flavor profile however, is only partly what keeps me coming back for more... Truth be told, this wonderful tea from spring harvest of 2017 is said to have a strong potency in cha qi (茶氣) aka a tea’s vital life force - that arises from its unadulterated nature. So yes, I'll admit... at each sitting, I've bonded with this one, in a very zen like dance of stillness. Technical brewing notes... I suppose that I prefer this tea between 190-200F... the first steep for about a minute... second and third steep a bit longer... in my clay gaiwan... And as with all good tea, do yourself a favor… carve out a quiet space, breathe deep, and sip slow.
I was listening to a Beethoven track, as you'll see on my notes, when I wrote them... but really, you can go in so many directions here. "Pour Some Sugar On Me" could be nice on some days! And, well, silence, is also... quite, quite nice... Let the tea speak to you...
PS I'll see you again soon, DLH! (And you'll see... Once you sit with David, you can't possibly not go back! Except... these days David often suggests that I serve a couple rounds at his tea table - "A tea sommelier is here!" he sweetly says when I arrive, and boy do I get a tad bashful... a tea somm is simply a student with some baseline knowledge! But of course, I serve!)