We’ve all probably wondered what it takes to source fresh, healthy, quality tea. How can a tiny plant seedling evolve into a rich, refined beverage like tea? Let’s go back to the beginning of the whole meticulous process in Xiaohusai farms - the tea planting.
“We don’t start from scratch with new tea plants every single year. When we do, the process involves carefully preparing the soil and planting the saplings. In 3 to 5 years, fresh tea leaves will be ready for harvest,” explained Mr. Chen, a native farmer, and long-time resident of Xiaohusai. We’ve had the amazing opportunity to interview him on our most recent summer trip in 2022 (view full interview here).
The farmers of Xiaohusai refrain from using modern inventions for their convenience, like fertilizers or pesticides; instead, they keep true to their traditions, the wondrous way their parents, grandparents, and ancestors have done. These hardworking farmers and their families (including children) work all day, rarely getting breaks until the day’s harvest work is done. This includes planting and picking healthy tea leaves for consumption, up to the best quality they ensure.
“We pretty much just work the entire day,” said Mr. Chen. He sounded rather nonchalant about the matter. “The only time we have to take a break is in the evenings when our day’s work is complete, but our work-and-rest schedule is not necessarily set in stone. Once we finish picking the tea leaves for the season, there is a little time to rest as well, but it's not long until we get right back to it and restart the cycle.” (A Chat with Mr. Chen, Tung)
The process then divides per tea type - Pu-Erh, Black, and White.
Our best-selling: Pu-Erh tea
Pu-Erh tea is an ancient Chinese fermented tea, traditionally produced in Yunnan Province, China – exactly where Xiaohusai is located in. There are four major regions for optimal Pu-erh tea production, with the mountains of Yunnan province being one. The rich soil, surrounding ecology, and humidity assists in the best Pu-erh harvest around.
After carefully handpicking the leaves, Pu-erh tea goes through a long oxidation (exposure to oxygen) process, in which it generates antioxidants. When consumed, these antioxidants help remove free radicals that may purpose critical illnesses. Each sip of this long-established tea delivers oxygen to the brain, which helps relieve headaches and enhance circulation and blood flow in the body.
Xiaohusai's 100g organic Pu'er tea
“The farming environment here in Xiaohusai is very optimal. I believe the conditions in our mountains contribute significantly to our tea quality. We also refrain from using fertilizers and pesticides, keeping true to the decades or even centuries of tea farmers here before us who have done the same.” – Mr. Chen, a native farmer and long-time resident of Xiaohusai.
A safe bet: Black tea
Ever wondered what the popular boba drink is made from? Most bubble tea, or the main drink milk tea, is made from black tea, one of the most consumed beverages worldwide. Black tea is sourced from the evergreen plant Camellia sinensis – the same plant where tea leaves and buds are used to produce various types of tea.
(insert black tea in cup picture)
To create black tea, the carefully harvested tea leaves need to be wilted, lightly crushed, and overall go through an extensive, complex oxidation process. This results in an intense, richly aromatic, malty taste, and radiates a brownish-black color. Black tea includes the benefits of improved heart and gut health, reduced blood pressure and risk of stroke, as well as a heightened level of focus.
Xiaohusai's 30g organic Black tea
Our newest: White tea
Now this tea may be something you’ve never heard of. Sourced from the same Camellia sinensis plant, the fine tea leaves are harvested before the buds open fully, when the leaves are still covered by white hairs – hence the name “white tea”.
White tea is minimally processed with a short time for oxidation, unlike both Pu-Erh and black tea, which go through an extensive oxidation process. This ultimately results in a delicate taste, with low caffeine levels and the highest level of antioxidants. In comparison to its unique fragrance, white tea provides a mild flavor with a crisp, clean finish, and is considered one of the most delicate teas around. Benefits include strengthened bones, protection from bacteria in teeth and gums, and even anti-aging.
FAQ: Do tea leaves ever expire?
A short answer is yes, from months up to a year. To maximize the freshness of our tea, we’ve hand-packaged them ourselves in airtight containers, sealing the tea leaves from moisture in the outside air. This will prevent it from going bad, and continue to stay fresh for up to a year.
However, Pu-Erh and White tea - both of which we sell here at Xiaohusai - actually get better over time, much like fine wine. With age, the more valuable the aftertaste and aroma of Pu-Erh and White tea become.
And that is how Xiaohusai sources and sells brilliant, trustworthy, and quality “tea with a story.” Stay tuned for more blog posts~!
Xiaohusai - tea with a story.
References (all credible):
Enloe, Autumn. “10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Black Tea.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 16 May 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/black-tea-benefits.
Rasheed, Zafar. “Molecular Evidences of Health Benefits of Drinking Black Tea.” International Journal of Health Sciences, vol. 13, no. 3, 2019, pp. 1–3, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6512146/.
Wang, Sunan, et al. “Chemical Constituents and Biological Properties of Pu-Erh Tea.” Food Research International, vol. 154, no. 0963-9969, Dec. 2021, p. 110899, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2021.110899.