We spent 2 1/2 days with Tea Master Zhou. Sitting with him as he served us tea at his tea room, going to his tea factory, and walking among his tea trees high in the center of Wuyi Mountain.
The first day, we accompanied him as he checked on the tea leaves to see when they would be ready to pick. The leaves must be picked at the exact right time to ensure a great tasting tea. It was breathe taking, captivating and invigorating. It is astounding as you stand above the city below.
Our second trip up the mountain, was the day before we left. We watched them pick the tea, carry it down the mountain and drop it off at his tea factory, where the serious process of making the tea began. We were exhausted and had to leave early the next day so we did not stay with Master Zhou as he spent all night with the tea. He will not leave the tea for at least 10 days and nights while he is processing it. He does not sleep, till his final batch is prepared.
We really had a lot of fun being with him. He was so kind to spend so much time with us. He has a lot of energy. And patience, as we strained between our english and Chinese “wechat” translations in order to communicate with Tea Master Zhou when Ming was not there. We witnessed and felt his passion for the tea. We also met his wife who graciously served us tea, too.
Master Zhou is a native of Wuyi Shan Village, now about 42 years old. He started making tea at the age of 17. His Tea Master was Yi Timpa. When asked what drew him to his practice of tea making, he said, “When I was young, I liked drinking tea”. He added, “It was hard work, it took a lot of training and many years”.
“It is wu shen, from inside, an intuition and a spiritual connection to the tea.When I make the tea it is with my heart and energy. The tea tastes better. People say my tea tastes better. That it is the best.”
All the tea he makes is from his own trees, except for the Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, which a tea tree owner from the protected side of Wuyi Mountain brings him the tea leaves to process. Tea Master Zhou charcoal bakes his teas at least 5 times. “If you bake the tea less than five times, the tea is not good”, he stated. “You have to open the tea till it comes alive”.
“A good clay pot should become your private, special aged possession. Even if you run out of tea, if you just put water in it, the water will taste like tea. This is a must have”.
“Tea making is like art work, because every time you make it, it can’t come out the same”.
“The tea must be picked at exactly the right time. You must check it every day until it is ready. All hand picked, only 1 time a year in the spring”.
Tea Master Zhou employs about 15 people who help him during the tea picking season.
He tells us that 80% of the tea in the Wuyishan market is not real WuYi Tea because it is not grown on the mountain. Master Zhou can grow on the mountain because he’s from the village. There are about 5,000 tea distributers in the city, but only 10 of them have the real Wuyishan Mountain rock cliff tea.
Master Zhou does nothing to nourish the trees. It is all by nature. He has trees that are at the top of the center of the mountain. The center and top of the mountain is the optimal location for tea trees to produce the highest quality of tea.
Master Zhou’s tea is exclusive to SonWu Tea in the U.S. We are the only people outside of China to have his tea. And now we offer it to you. Much love and heartfelt thanks to Master Zhou.