Saturday, February 27, 2016

Further Readings for February 2016 - Zen and Tea: One Flavor

Puerh is unique amongst all the genres of tea because the importance of the raw material far outweighs any processing skill. The quality of most oolongs, for example, is determined as much by the source of the leaves as by the skill of the one processing the tea. The value of puerh, on the other hand, is ninety percent in the trees. There are many kinds of tea trees in Yunnan and the source determines the value of the tea. What village a tea comes from and which trees will decide its value, in other words. Of course, there is also plenty of dishonesty in the puerh world: material picked in one region and then taken to a more expensive one to be sold as native tea, young trees sold as old trees, etc. This means producers and consumers have to be able to distinguish the differences between regions and types of leaves. 

Puerh trees can roughly be divided into two main categories, though it is useful to understand some of the subdivisions as well: old-growth (gu shu, 古樹) and plantation tea (tai di cha, 台地茶). Old growth tea is by far the better of these two. This refers to older trees. There is some debate about what constitutes “old-growth” since tea trees in Yunnan can range from dozens to thousands of years old. Arbitrarily, we think that when a tea tree becomes a centenarian (100 years), it can rightly be called “old-growth”. Old-growth tea can then be subdivided into trees that are wild or those that were planted by people. Though planted by man, the latter are often indistinguishable from the former as they are both found in small gardens in the heart of the forest. In fact, you would have difficulty picking the trees out from their surroundings without the help of a guide. Another subdivision could be called “ecologically-farmed old-growth”, which refers to old trees planted in gardens closer to villages and/or homesteads. Some people also like to have a category for 1,000+yearold trees as well, calling them by that name or maybe “ancient trees”. Plantation puerh (tai di cha) is far inferior and often not organic. The trees there might even be several decades old, but they aren’t Living Tea, and lack many of the qualities that make puerh so special, as we discussed in our article about this month’s tea.

Rough Tea (Mao Cha 毛茶) 

All puerh tea begins with mao cha (毛茶), which translates as “rough tea”. Mao cha refers to the finished leaf as it leaves the farm to be sold directly to factories small and large, or independently at market. Tea at this stage has been plucked by hand, wilted, fried to remove the raw flavor (called “sa chin” 殺青), kneaded (ro nien, 揉捻), and dried. These processes need to occur almost immediately after the tea has been plucked, which is why they are done directly at the farm rather than at the factory. 

Most varieties of tea include all the same stages of processing as puerh, though unlike puerh, the final processing often ends there and the loose-leaf tea is then packaged right at the farm. (Some oolongs were traditionally finished at shops, as well. The shop owners would do the final roasting to suit their tastes.) Puerh, on the other hand, often travels to a factory for final processing: compression into cakes if it is raw, sheng puerh or piling and then compression if it is ripe, shou puerh. 

Some varieties of puerh are also destined to become loose leaf. At the start, that means that they remain “mao cha”, but once they are aged, they are technically no longer “rough tea”. So an aged, loose-leaf puerh shouldn’t really be called “mao cha”. 

Traditionally, these loose teas were the ones that were grown at smaller farms that didn’t have contracts with any factory—often from so-called “Border Regions” where Yunnan borders Laos, Vietnam or Myanmar. Such teas were then sold at market, traded between farmers or bought and stored by collectors. You can’t be certain, however, that a loose-leaf puerh is a Border Tea, as the big factories also packaged and sold some of their teas loose, though not as much as compressed tea. Although some of the tea that was sold loose was fine quality, most of it was considered inferior. 

We have a huge collection of loose-leaf puerh tea here. In fact, we have so much that we have also become collectors of rare antique jars to store it all in. Loose-leaf puerh, no matter how old, is always cheaper than puerh compressed into cakes. One reason for this is that the cakes have an easily-verified vintage. Though there are fakes, experts have developed systems of identifying them, using a combination of factors from a kind of “wrapperology”, which identifies characteristic marks, color changes, etc., in the printing of the wrappers to the cake itself—its shape, leaf color or size, compression, etc. On the other hand, very few aged loose-leaf teas are pure. Most of them are blends. Some were blended during production, though more often, tea was added later on to increase the quantity of an aged tea. Sometimes blends of wet and drierstored teas, or even sheng and shou are mixed to make a tea seem older than it is. When drinking aged loose-leaf puerh, it is a good idea to only rank them relative to other loose-leaf puerhs, rather than believing in the date the merchant has given. While some loose-leaf puerhs do have a distinct vintage, most are blends. Looking at the wet leaves after steeping will also verify this.

Beyond that, cakes have been found to have more Qi than loose leaf puerh, so that if the same tea were left loose and processed into a discus (bing, 餅), for example, and then aged for thirty years, the cake would have more Qi than the loose leaf. Having done several experiments where we stored the same exact tea from the same farm in both loose leaf and cake form, we can say for sure that the compressed teas age better, and not just in terms of Qi. They are better in every way: flavor, aroma, etc. They also age faster and more evenly. One possible reason for this is that the steam used to compress the cakes seals the bacteria in, and the inner moisture creates a better environment for them to do their work. Still, despite the fact that cakes are better, loose-leaf teas are often great deals since they are much cheaper than cakes of the same age. It’s like choosing a more affordable antique teapot with a chip under the lid versus a perfect, very expensive one. Depending on your budget, the former may be the better choice.


The freshly plucked leaves are carried back to the house or village and gently spread out on bamboo mats to be slightly wilted before they are heated to remove the raw flavor. The purpose of wilting the leaves is to slightly reduce the moisture content in the leaves so that they will be more pliable and less likely to be damaged when they are heated. This process must be watched carefully so that the leaves do not oxidize more than is absolutely necessary. For that reason, wilting typically takes place outdoors and indoors. The tea is withered outdoors for some time and then placed in a well-ventilated room, often shared by members of a particular farming village.

The heating process/firing (sa chin) is literally performed to remove the raw flavor of the tea leaf. This occurs in the production of most all kinds of tea (except white tea, which categorically skips this process). In Yunnan, the heating process is still often done by hand in large woodfired woks. The temperature must remain constant and the leaves have to be continuously turned to prevent any singeing. In larger farms, though not often in Yunnan, this is done in large barrel-like machines that spin around like a clothes drier. With puerh, however, the firing is still done by hand, once again lending tradition and wisdom to the puerh process. Workers sift the leaves around in circular motions ensuring that they never touch the wok for longer than a blink. Through generations of experience the farmers can tell by appearance and feel when the leaves are sufficiently cooked, and their timing is as impeccable as any time/temperature-controlled machine elsewhere. Scientifically, the process is removing certain green enzymes within the leaf that lend it the raw flavor, which in some varieties is too bitter to be drunk. As we’ll discuss later, the sa chin of puerh is less-pronounced than in many other kinds of teas.

After the leaves are fried they are kneaded (ro nien). This process also occurs by hand on most puerh farms or villages near old trees. A special technique is used to knead the leaves like dough. This bruises the leaves and breaks apart their cellular structure to encourage oxidation, and later fermentation (fa xiao, 發酵), which will occur through the various methods (explained in the box about sheng and shou puerh on the opposit page). It takes skill and method to achieve a gentle bruising without tearing the leaves. We have personally tried this in Yunnan and Taiwan, and found it is very difficult to achieve. We invariably tore up the leaves. The farmers, however, can go through the movements with surprising speed.

Finally, after the mao cha has been kneaded and bruised it is left to dry in the sun. Once again this process must be monitored carefully to prevent any unwanted oxidation or fermentation from occurring. Usually, the leaves are dried in the early morning and late evening sun, as midday is too hot. They will move the leaves into the same well-ventilated room used earlier for wilting during the hot hours of the day. The leaves will be inspected hourly and when they have dried sufficiently, they will be bagged and taken to the factory to be processed, or to market to be sold as loose leaf.

The two most distinguishing aspects of puerh production are the sa chin and the sun drying. The firing of puerh tea does arrest oxidation, as in all tea, but it is usually less pronounced than other kinds of tea, leaving some of the enzymes in the tea alive, as they help promote fermentation. Then, after firing and rolling, puerh is sun dried. This gives it a certain flavor, texture and aroma and helps further the natural vibrations present in the tea. Not all puerh is processed in this way, especially with all the innovation and change in the modern industry—though, ideally, we want tea made in traditional ways.

Once the leaves are processed, they will often go through their first sorting (fan ji). A second sorting will occur later at the factory itself. This sorting is to remove unwanted, ripped or torn leaves, as well as the leaves that weren’t fired or rolled properly. At this stage, the factory/ producer may ask the farmer to sort the leaves according to size, called “grade”. This practice is becoming rarer, however, as the prices of oldgrowth puerh increase. Nowadays, farmers sell most everything. Sometimes, they don’t even sort out the broken or mis-processed leaves.

 At the Factory

Upon arrival to the factory, the mao cha goes through its second sorting (fan ji). This is often done by hand even at the larger factories, though some have large winnowing machines. And most have strict rules controlling the diet of the sorters. Tea is an extremely absorbent leaf and will be altered by any impurities. Sorters therefore shouldn’t eat chili, garlic or onions. Nor can they drink alcohol the night before a sort, as it will be secreted through their skin and contaminate the leaves. The sorting that occurred on the farm was more cursory and based solely on leaf size or “grade”. This second sorting is more detailed and thorough. The leaves are distinguished not only by their size, but also by their quality, type (old or young growth, which mountain they came from, etc.), and other criteria that are constantly changing. Larger factories often have mao cha arriving from all over Yunnan and therefore employ experts to monitor all sorts of conditions to determine which leaf size, which locations, etc., will have a good harvest that year. More and more, factories are targeting collectors by creating limited edition sets, with cakes from certain mountains, for example.

There is a lot of discussion nowadays about the differences between single-region and blended puerhs. For the last fifty years, most all puerhs were blends. The factories would collect the mao cha from various regions and then blend them in ways they thought improved the tea: choosing strength and Qi from one region, blended with sweetness and flavor from another, etc. In this way, cakes would be more balanced. In the last fifteen years, there has been a trend towards single-region cakes, and with it the idea that such tea is more pure. It should be remembered that all old-growth puerh is actually a blend, since no two trees are the same. So even tea from a single mountain will be a blend of different teas. If you are sensitive enough, you can even distinguish the leaves from the eastern and western side of a single tree, since they receive different sunlight. There are merits to both kinds of cakes, and it seems pointless to say that one is better than the other in general. It would be better to talk about specific teas, as a certain blended cake may be better than a given single-region cake or vice versa.

The trend towards boutique, private and single-region cakes has also changed the way that puerh is produced. For example, some cakes are made on site and completely processed by the farmers themselves. Most tea, however, still travels to factories for sorting (blending) and compression. What was once one of the simplest teas, at least as far as processing goes, has now become complicated by the vast industry that has grown up around it.

Mao cha can sit in a factory for a long or short time, depending on many factors. In doing so, it technically ceases to be “rough tea”. Sometimes tea is aged for a while and then piled to produce a nice, mellower shou tea than a new tea could produce. Other times the tea that was inferior and didn’t make it into a cake, is then sold loose leaf later, and labeled “aged” to help market it.

Once ready, the leaves are carefully weighed and placed into cloth compression bags or metal pans. The texture of these bags can be seen imprinted on puerh tea if one looks closely. They are not used to package the tea, only in the compression process itself. They are made from special cross-woven cotton. Strangely, even the larger factories that we’ve visited still use antique-looking scales to do their weighing. Along with human error, this explains why even new cakes are often incorrect in either direction by a decimal of a gram (of course in aged tea this is usually due to pieces breaking off).

Steam is used to prepare the tea for compression. The steam is carefully controlled—mostly automatous in the larger factories—to ensure the leaves are soft and pliable, but not cooked or oxidized in any way. It is basically a process of slight rehydration. The steam softens the tea and the cloth in preparation for compression. Sometimes the steaming takes place before the tea is placed into the cloth, using metal pans instead. In a non-mechanized factory a wooden table is placed over a heated wok full of water. The steam rises through a small hole in the center. This is far more difficult than the automatic steam generators at larger factories because the temperature control is lacking and the leaves can end up being burnt. It requires the skill of generations to successfully steam the tea this way.

The compression process was traditionally done with stone block molds. The tea is placed in the cloth, which is then turned and shaped into a ball. The nei fei is added at this time—an “inner trademark ticket” compressed into the tea to establish branding. The cloth is then twisted shut and covered with a stone mold block. The producer would then physically stand on the stone block and use his or her weight to compress the cake. In some of the smaller family-run factories, puerh cakes are still created using this method. On our recent visit to Yunnan, we had the chance to make our cakes by dancing around on the stone molds, to the delight of the Chinese audience present. Larger factories often have machines for compressing their cakes, though some still produce some of their cakes in the traditional way. Some are hand-operated presses that require the operator to pull down a lever and press the cake into shape; others are automatic and occur with the press of a button. We even saw one machine that was capable of compressing twelve bings simultaneously.

After compression, the cakes are taken out of the compression cloths and placed on wooden shelves to dry. They are still slightly damp from the steam at this stage. Many larger factories have a separate room with tons of shelves lined with drying cakes. The cakes are monitored and often even stored on particular shelves that are numbered according to their processing time. Different types of puerh leaves and different shapes or levels of compression will affect the amount of time that is needed to dry the cakes, from hours to days and sometimes even up to a week. Some big factories use ventilation systems and/or fans to speed up the process.

When they are finished drying, the cakes are taken off the shelves to be packaged. Each generation of cakes has its own unique characteristics with regards to the wrapping paper, printing, style of Chinese characters, nei fei, etc. As we discussed earlier, there is a whole science of “wrapperology”. Each decade brought revolutions in the printing process worldwide, so it seems obvious that the larger factories would change their printing methods. Also, the wrapping paper in particular is handmade, and a lot can be discerned via fibers, texture, and the appearance of the paper as well as the ink color. It is impossible to forge many of these paper and ink combinations and make them appear aged. 

Discus-shaped cakes, called “bingchas” are individually wrapped in handmade paper and then bundled in groups of seven (qi zi, 七子) called tongs (桶). Each tong is wrapped in Bamboo bark (tsu tze ka, 竹子殼). Sometimes English articles mistakenly assume that these are bamboo leaves. Actually, bamboo trees shed their skin whenever they get bigger or sprout new stems. You can see this material covering the floor of any bamboo forest. The Bamboo bark conserves the freshness of the tea and makes packaging easier. Twelve tongs are then further wrapped using Bamboo, into a jian (件), which is twelve tongs of seven, so eighty-four bings in all. Other shapes of compression include bricks (zhuan), mushrooms (which look like hearts to the Tibetans they were primarily exported to, and thus named “jing cha”), bowl or nest shapes (tuocha), and sometimes melons. We have found that the discus-shaped cakes (bings) age the best.

Puerh production may seem complicated at first, but it really isn’t that difficult to understand. We hope that the basics we’ve covered in this article, along with the accompanying charts, will help simplify the process for you and increase your understanding of the more linear aspects of puerh tea. By including other articles about the energetics of puerh in this issue, as well as past and future issues, we hope to fulfill you in a more balanced way. Thus, our understanding of puerh will be more holistic, including its history, production methodologies and other informative approaches along with a spiritual and vibrational understanding of this amazing tea.

 Traditionally, rough tea (mao cha, 毛茶) for puerh production was sorted by grade, from one to ten based on the size of the leaves. This qualitative scale is based on the idea that smaller buds are higher in value, as they are rarer and more difficult to pick. They tend to be sweeter as well. However, grades of teas are often very complicated. Sometimes a blend of different grades makes for a much better tea, like our tea of the month. Larger leaves can add depth, flavor or Qi. We recently tried a green tea that was much better with some leaves mixed in than the all-bud version, which was more beautiful to look at but lacked character, subtlety, body and breadth—not to mention Qi.

The word “grade” confuses English-speaking people. This is because the grade mentioned above is not always relevant to quality. Of course a first grade leaf is more expensive by weight because they are smaller and there are a lot less of them. But price and quality are not always commensurate. The word “grade” in English also denotes quality and is therefore misleading. There are two Chinese words, one for the grade (deng ji, 等級), i.e. size and location of the leaves on the plant, and another for the quality of the leaves/tea (pin tze, 品質). Often the first leaves are of better quality, but not always. Sometimes the third grade leaves of the exact same tree are better than the first of two years before and so on. And all that is before you complicate the process with age! Then you get into all kinds of riddles about whether a fourth grade five years old is better than a first grade that is two years old…

Furthering this confusion, different factories follow different guidelines and change them over time. Generally, though, the first grade leaves are the smaller ones at the tips of the bush/tree stems and the bigger and further back, the higher the grade. What changes is where they draw the second through tenth or sometimes even thirteenth lines. Some factories also add extra grades like “royal” or “special” (often called “gong ting, 宮廷” and “te ji, 特級” in Chinese) and sometimes even subdivide those categories. However, all of these categorical systems are completely arbitrary. Not only do they change from factory to factory, author to author; they also change over time within the same factory. Sometimes one can find the leaf size on the paper wrapper—printed on the logo or the recipe code, like 7542 (3rd digit is leaf size), in this case fourth. Still, what a particular factory was calling fourth grade leaves in 1960 is not necessarily what they are coding as fourth grade in 1980. Even the state run, large factories like Meng Hai changed their grading system more than once. Also, the “4” in “7542” only signifies the average leaf size, as the cakes is a blend. Typically the first 4 grades are used to process tuochas (melons) and jingcha (mushrooms) and larger fifth through ninth grades are reserved for Bingcha and brick puerh.

This is not to stay that there is no standard in leaf size, but rather that the grading process is done by eye and the scale from one to ten has varied slightly from factory to factory and over time. These grades weren’t originally meant to be public information; they were for internal use only, just like factory codes. The variations between factories and over time, however, are mostly minor. Getting to know the grades of leaves, therefore, is still worthwhile for the connoisseur interested in a better understanding of puerh tea.

The other difficulty with the grading system is that many cakes are mixed grades. Sometimes mixed grade loose tea (mao cha) is processed together uniformly throughout the cake; other times the middle and outside may be different grades. This is done to make the cake more beautiful and is a common marketing technique the factories use to target collectors. More and more in the last few decades, factories have even begun mixing together completely different kinds of leaves to produce different flavors and tea varieties for the consumer. So, for example, they mix different percentages of raw (sheng) leaves with cooked (shou) puerh; or perhaps mix leaves from old tea trees with those from their plantation bushes. Mixed cakes can sometimes yield incredible results that are both delicious and full of Qi, but many times these cakes are inferior to the traditional ones. It is better to have a cake composed wholly of old tea tree/larger leaves than a mixed one which presents confusing aromas, flavors and/or energies, for example.

In general, old-growth forest trees will have larger leaves than plantation tea (tai di cha, 台地茶). This doesn’t mean that leaf size is a sure sign of which is which, however. A bud from an old-growth tree may still be smaller than an older leaf from a plantation tree. How long the leaf is on the tree matters as well. Energetically, leaves cross a threshold after which they are no longer the giving of the tree, but rather the receiving of light. In other words, the leaves expand and eventually aren’t an outward expression of the tree’s nutrients, from the roots, and start absorbing light inwards instead. This is why the lower grades are usually better. But as I said, this isn’t always true, because a higher grade could also signify old-growth mao cha. A good example of a vibrant tea with higher-grade leaves is the famous “8582” first blended in the eighties, in which the average leaf size is “8”, which is rather large. 8582 was a throwback to Antique Era teas that were composed solely of old-growth mao cha. And the vintage versions of 8582 are amongst some of the best puerh ever made.

 Below is a table with some photos of the average first through tenth grade leaf sizes:

Factory Codes 

Many state-produced bingchas have a four-digit production number. This trend began in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s and consequently doesn’t apply to very old antique puerh. These were internal factory batch codes originally and were only known and used by factory workers and merchants who ordered from them. Nowadays, however, the old recipes have become famous and many companies, small and large, are trying to reproduce the famous “7542” or our favorite, “8582”. Consequently, it’s worth knowing a little of what these codes are about.

Basically, the first two digits are the year in which that production was first started. If a particular mixture/ processing procedure marketed well, it was then continued the next year, sometimes even for decades to the present. In other words, if the first two digits are “75,” this means that this particular production method/ mixture was first begun in 1975. This doesn’t mean that the tea itself dates to 1975. It could be a 2006 cake. It just means that the recipe itself began in 1975. The methods used to blend and process puerh tea into cakes are often experimented with until better formulas are developed.

The third digit refers to the leaf size or “grade” used in production of the cake. Grades of teas were and are often very complicated. Different factories follow different guidelines and/or change them over time. Generally, though, the first grade leaves are the smaller ones, buds, and then the bigger the leaves and further back up the stem, the higher the grade. In the olden days, the first four grades were often used to process bowls or nest-shaped teas (tuochas 沱茶) and mushrooms (jingcha 緊茶) and larger fifth through ninth grades were reserved for bingcha and brick puerh. This has changed in the modern era. Nowadays all different kinds of cakes are made from the selection of grades.

The word “grade” can occasionally confuse English speaking people. This is because the grade mentioned above is not always relevant to quality. Of course, a first grade leaf is more expensive by weight because the buds are smaller and there is a lot less of them. But price and quality are not always commensurate. The word “grade” in English also denotes “quality” and is therefore misleading. There are two Chinese words, one for the grade (dang ji 等級), i.e. size and location of the leaves on the plant, and another for the quality of the leaves/tea (pin tze 品質). Many times the first leaves are better quality, but not always.

The final number in the four-digit code refers to which state factory produced the cake. Knowing the factory can often help determine the tea-growing region in which the raw material was farmed as well. In those days there weren’t so many factories as today. As we mentioned above, these recipes are now copied or commemorated by many different factories, so the last number has less relevance in modern times. The numbering for the factories is as follows: 

1 Kunming Tea Factory (昆明茶厂) 
2 Menghai Tea Factory (勐海茶厂) 
3 Xia Guan Tea Factory (下关茶厂) 
4 Feng Qing Tea Factory (凤庆茶厂) 
8 Hai Wan Tea factory (海湾茶厂) * “8” was also used by Long Sheng Tea factory in the past (龙生茶厂) 
9 Langhe Tea Factory (郎河茶厂) 

Sometimes factory codes are also followed by a dash and then a number of the particular batch. This doesn’t occur that often, though. But when it does, it can help identify the vintage as long as one knows how many batches are produced each year. Below is a summary, then, of the four numbers present in a factory code with an example for clarity: 

For most of us, the weather has turned cold and we need a warm tea to see us through these frigid months. ere is great joy in a warm cup of tea when it is cold outside—perhaps even looking out at the snow from a warm place, watching the smile rise from our kettle as a reminder of how comfortable it is to be quietly indoors. is is the season for aged Puerhs, especially Ripe (Shou) Puerh. So this month we decided to send you a 1990’s Ripe Puerh from one of our favorite shops here in Taiwan, which we have quite appropriately named the “Upstairs Shop.”

As we have discussed in previous issues of this newsletter, Puerh comes in two varieties, Raw/Sheng and Ripe/Shou. The processing of Puerh tea is rather simple: it is picked, oxidized slightly, fried to kill a green enzyme and arrest oxidation, rolled to break down the cells, and then sun-dried (traditionally, though not always nowadays). The difference between Sheng and Shou then comes post-production. Sheng is left green, fermenting over time, whereas Shou Puerh is artificially fermented by human beings. 

It also helps if you understand a bit about the differences between oxidation and fermentation. Basically, fermentation requires the presence of bacteria, like with cheese and wine and oxidation is just break- down due to exposure to oxygen, like a cut apple turning brown. There is a very informative and well-written article by our own Bob Heiss in issue two of our free online magazine The Leaf, which explores this topic in some depth (

Shou Puerh is first processed like Sheng into what is called “rough tea (mao cha)”. is is the tea that is bought at gardens and taken to factories for production—either left as loose leaf Sheng, compressed as Sheng cakes which ferment naturally over time, or artificially fermented into loose leaf Shou or compressed Shou. The artifcial fermentation process itself, called “wo dwei” in Chinese, consists of moistening and piling the tea under thermal blankets. e heat and moisture promote the fermentation, not unlike composting.

Shou processing is not traditional to Yunnan, or to Puerh for that matter. Post-production artifcial fermentation is what characterizes Black Tea (not to be confused with Red Tea, which is often mistakenly called “Black Tea” in the West, as we have discussed in previous articles). In the 1960’s, factories in Yunnan wanted to speed up the fermentation of Puerh, thinking that they could recreate the favors of fine, aged Puerh in a much shorter time. A good aged Sheng can take thirty,
forty or even seventy years to be fully mature, depending on whom you ask. In the past, when we rst became interested in tea, aged Puerh was much more ordinary and it was not uncommon for shops to only drink tea that had been aged seventy years or more. But nowadays scarcity and increased prices have changed things, and many people now consider thirty-year-old tea to be well-aged. Anyway, in the late sixties the big factories wanted to recreate the magic of aged Puerh in a short time. They therefore researched artifcial fermentation, studying other Black teas like Liu Bao, and eventually began adapting the process to Puerh. In 1972, they received permission from the government to begin full-scale production of Shou Puerh, which is why books often claim that to be the starting date. Of course, they were not at all successful at recreating the magic of what Nature does to Sheng Puerh over many decades. Instead, they invented a new genre of tea, which must be judged on its own merits; and indeed is. We participate in tea reviews for magazines, and Sheng/Shou reviews are always separate—even the criteria that define quality in these teas are very different.

It actually takes a lot of skill to control the piling process used to ferment Shou Puerh. Unfortunately, many of the factories have lost these skills over the years, though not all. Dangerous bacteria may even be introduced if the piling is done improperly, and ammonia and other harmful chemicals created as well (the amount of some of these chemicals is important to the quality and safety of the tea). For that reason, it is better to buy modern Shou tea from bigger factories that have been doing it longer and have more hygienic facilities. Still, the best option is to buy old Shou Puerh, which is much, much cheaper than aged Sheng.

Also, we have found that the Shou tea produced before the year 2000 was all fermented much more lightly than what is being produced nowadays. These days, the tea is piled until it is fully fermented, at most factories anyway. As we’ve said, it takes skill to successfully ferment the tea to a desired amount. It is much easier to just leave it to fully ferment. This leaves the tea with a pondy avor and a hint of ammonia. It also cannot age, but rather just mellows out a bit as the years pass—perhaps growing less pondy if you’re lucky. The Shou tea that was made between the 70s and 90s, however, was usually only partially fermented—sometimes even as little as 40% or 50%. is meant that the tea also changed over time, aging like Sheng. In fact, there are some aged Shou teas that only seasoned Pu-erh drinkers would even know are in fact Shou. One of the appeals of aged tea, of course, is that the earth was cleaner before and the production in Yunnan involved no agro-chemicals of any kind.

Our Tea of the Month is made by Menghai tea factory, the biggest and most famous factory between 1972 and 1998, which is what we call the “Chi Tze Era” of Puerh. The recipe is 7572, which is also a famous cake of Shou Puerh, though this is the loose-leaf version, which is a bit cheaper. Puerh is always more expensive in cake form, as the vintage can be assured and also the tea ages better that way. The 7572 of the recipe is one of many batch codes that were once used only within the factory, but have since become famous. The first two digits (75) refer to the year the recipe began (in this case 1975). This does not signify the date the tea was made, just the invention of the blend itself (Our tea comes from the early 1990’s). The third digit (7) refers to the “leaf grade”, which is a technical term for the size of the leaf from one to nine, nine being the biggest. As you can see, our tea (7) is made up of quite large leaves. is means the leaves were on the tree longer, are more Yin in energy, and by market standards a slightly less expensive quality, since there are less buds. The number seven represents an average of the leaf size. Finally, the last digit (2) refers to which of the handful of factories were operating at that time (2 for Menghai).

This special tea is great in the winter, with a deep earthy favor and nice Qi that will warm you up. Such older, higher grade leaves usually came from bigger trees at that time, too. Good Shou tea should be creamy, malty and thick with earthy depth. The liquor is thick and warm, spreading from the chest. You can steep or boil it—drink it from a pot or a bowl. It is difficult to prepare it poorly.
We’ll imagine you drinking it somewhere warm, and with people you love. There is nothing like the rich, dark earthy favors of an aged Puerh on a cold winter day, except perhaps one prepared and sent with great love from far away and then enjoyed with fellow tea lovers from around the world! 

We call it “Living Tea” for obvious reasons: it lights you up, and your every cell feels alive, moving to the sway of the Tea dance. What we mean by Living Tea, though, is real Tea— Tea that is grown in the old ways. The first ever puerh advertisement to be translated into English had a bit of language in it that is actually quite deep, and we keep an antique copy in the center for that reason. It says: “This Tea is far more powerful than anything made by the hands of man…” In our tradition, there is Living Tea and… well, not Living Tea. And that is the most important criteria for choosing tea, though the issue is a bit more complicated than that, as we will see later on…


There are six main characteristics of Living Tea, each as important as the other. The first is that it is seed-propagated. Tea is a sexual plant, which means that it is cross-pollinated. A tremendous amount of natural energy goes into the creation of a Tea seed, including bugs and forest, sun and sky. Each one carries great energy within it. And no two Tea seeds are alike. They will each produce a completely unique Tea tree, which is why Tea has done so well traveling to different climates. If you plant a thousand seeds, the chances that one of them will survive are high. Unfortunately, very little Tea in the world is seed-propagated. The reason, of course, is industry and the commoditization of Tea. Sadly, Tea faces many of the problems that all agricultural products are haunted by. Most Tea plantations use cuttings from a tree, planted to produce another. They are in essence clones. Producers do this to achieve a uniformity of flavor. Also, with a few hundred, or even thousands of different trees, all with different needs, the farmer would potentially have a lot more work to do

It took millennia for trees like Tea to develop sexual cross-fertilization. It is also tremendously difficult for such trees to fertilize one another, since the mates cannot move towards embrace the way that animals and people can. As a result, plants have developed magnificent ways of fertilizing each other, enticing insects to pollinate them, using the wind, etc. There is a reason for all this. Carl Sagan said that the evolution from asexual to sexual reproduction on this planet was as significant as the beginning of life itself, as it allows for all the creative power in Nature to assert itself in such myriad forms. There is something deep and powerful missing when a plant is not allowed to cross-fertilize. The variety in Nature is magic, just as in humans. Every tree is then different. Sure, they share some similarities due to common genetic heritage and similar terroir (climate, soil, etc.), but like people they each have their own medicine, their own perspective, experience and wisdom.

The difference in power and healing between seed-propagated and cloned Tea is obvious. There 17 Living Tea Wu De In these magazines, there is no single term you will see more often than 'Living Tea'. It is a central teaching to all we know, practice and promote about Tea. In this excerpt, adapted from Wu De's new book, we learn about the six characteristics of Living Tea. In that way, our tea journey takes off on the right foot, and we can resource this important teaching anytime. Tea Basics are essentially two main varieties of Tea trees: what are called “big leaf trees”, which are the original, oldest Tea trees (which we’re drinking this month). They have a single trunk, grow very tall and have roots that grow downwards. As Tea moved north it evolved into “small leaf trees”, which are more bushlike. They have many trunks and roots that grow outwards. In fact, the leaves got smaller and smaller as Tea moved north, whether naturally or carried by man, until you get to Japan where the leaves are so small they look like needles after they’re rolled. Now, big leaf tea trees can live thousands of years. The oldest one we’ve dated is 3,500 years old! It is about seven people around (I kissed it, and once for you). There are probably older ones out there, or at least were in the past. Small leaf tea trees can live hundreds of years, and some are many centuries old. Here’s the punch line: The clones on plantations typically live thirty to fifty years only. And more than a few farmers have told me that they aren’t living as long anymore, sometimes as few as fifteen to twenty years, mostly because they are ripped out when their yield decreases.

There are several species of birds that love to eat Tea seeds. They are rich and oily and full of nutrients. Farmers make cooking oil out of them. It’s delicious. Recently, farmers have told me that after the second generation of cloning, the birds will no longer eat the tea seeds anymore.

Room to Grow 

The second key factor in Living Tea is room to grow. All living things need ample room to grow. How could you be healthy in a small box, or worse yet, trapped in a crowd of people for the rest of your life? Tea trees are no different. They need space between trees to extend their roots. In Taiwan, there are seed-propagated gardens that were abandoned for seventy or eighty years in Sun Moon Lake (Do you remember we drank that tea together months ago?). When people started tending them again, the tea trees had organized themselves—and not in nice neat rows, convenient for maximizing output. They knew that certain parts of the land were more nutrient-dense and could support more trees in a cluster, while other places didn’t have as rich of soil and the trees needed more space, more roots and room between each other. Nature knows how to organize Herself, and was doing so long before we arrived. It’s not broken or fallen, and our meddling doesn’t fix anything. 

Tea doesn’t just need lateral room to grow, but also room to grow up towards the sun and extend its crown. This is essential, for a plant biologist once told me that every plant has an unknown ratio between its roots and crown. We can’t measure that ratio, but it’s there (actually we could, but it would be different for every tree). And when you cut the crown, the roots will shrink accordingly. We’ve often discussed in this magazine that Tea is such a special plant because it has a very complex, deep root system that absorbs energy (Qi) from the mountains where it grows, bestowing many unique trace elements onto us.

On commercial plantations, the trees are all crammed together so close they are competing with each other for the limited resources of the mountain. And then they are pruned, never allowed to grow up strong and healthy. The reason is, of course, to increase yield by making picking easier. As with other agriculture products, it’s usually a quantity over quality methodology. This sharp contrast is felt not only in the fields, but in the bowl as well.


The third aspect of Living Tea is biodiversity. There is an infinite amount of connections and correlations between all the living things in any environment, and as we are learning to our detriment, meddling with certain elements of the web affects every living creature on the web, including ourselves. And this is precisely what Tea is supposed to be helping us to heal, as we awaken our harmony to Nature.

There is a famous man in Japan named Masanobu Fukuoka who should be canonized, in my opinion. He did a tremendous amount for Asia, and the world, teaching people sustainable agricultural techniques, creating organic certification and many other important projects. He studied biology in college, and went to spend his life serving Mother Nature. He has a quote about biodiversity that I like. He said, and I am paraphrasing, “When I was in college, I had a professor who always used to say that philosophy and religion have no place in the world of science. One day, years later, I was walking in a field of barley and I realized that science has no place in the world of barley!” There are just too many connections, from the weather to the insects and from the insects to the microbes—too many factors for us to know how they all relate to each other, except to say, “This Tea is far more powerful than anything made by the hands of man…” 

I heard a story that somewhere in the Great Plains the Indians used to say that ‘When the prairie dog barks, it rains’. When the white people came, they thought that was superstitious nonsense and started killing what they considered to be pests: they dig up your lawn, and potentially can cause damage to the foundation of a house; and they have no apparent role in the local ecology! When the Natives warned them that if they killed the prairie dogs, it wouldn’t rain, they laughed. Sure enough, after they’d killed all the prairie dogs, the land grew more and more desert like. As it turns out, the soil in that region needs heavy aeration, without which the grass and trees can’t grow. No grass or trees and no precipitation! The prairie dogs were aerating the soil, and their role was key. In fact, if you are wise, you’ll see that the prairie dogs are the rain!

The relationships between the insects and the snakes, the soil and the bug poop, the microbes and the fungi are just as complex as the make-up of our bodies—maybe even more so. And there’s no super computer(s) on earth that can come close to the complexity of a zygote, organizing millions of cells as the animal forms more and more complex systems in the womb. Furthermore, even if we could figure out how to control all the facets of an environment for agriculture, why would we want to? Nature has been doing it way longer, and always provides better for us. This mysterious web of interconnection creates an ineffable difference between Living Tea and plantation Tea.


The fourth characteristic of Living Tea is the most obvious of the six, and the easiest to discuss: Living Tea is, of course, grown without the use of any agrochemicals. The triad of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers are bad for the environment and the health of the farmers and consumers. The tea trees that survive from chemical fertilizers do not receive nutrients from the mountain. They are like patients in a hospital surviving on intravenous lines—take away the fertilizers and they die. Since tea is grown at the top of mountains, these chemicals also run down and harm other ecologies besides the farm. And included in their poisonous effects are the lives of the farmers and their families, who are exposed to these chemicals in heavier doses. Many of the greatest proponents for organic farming are the loudest advocates of organic farming because they or their families were harmed by agrochemicals. Such tea is not sustainable and not good for the future prosperity of this planet, not to mention that it defeats the point of Tea as plant medicine.

No Irrigation 

The fifth characteristic of Living Tea is that it not be irrigated. When you irrigate tea trees, you can have more of them on a plot of land, but they never reach down deep with their roots. Instead, the roots stay near the surface. By not irrigating, and letting them find water naturally, they will dig down deeper—as far as they can, depending on the mountain and the rock bed beneath them. Some trees will die, but this will help with the ‘room to grow’ factor mentioned above. The ones that survive will have deeper and stronger root systems, which means more minerals and energy from the mountains. Some tea trees can dig roots very deep, down to the geothermal heat of the mountain, drawing rich minerals, water and heat up into their systems, which of course produces much more medicinal tea leaves…


The sixth and final characteristic of Living Tea has to do with the conversation between people and Tea. After all, as we’ve discussed so often, Tea was made to be human. It responds to us. In Chinese, the character for Tea has the radical ‘man’ in it, suggesting that Tea as we drink it is a dialogue between Man and the Plant Kingdom, represented by the radicals for ‘grass’ or ‘plant’ above and ‘wood’ below. The nature of that conversation is therefore incredibly important to the quality and life of a tea. Is it about money and greed? Is it about love and healing? Does the farmer even talk to the trees at all? Is there respect in their conversations? These are the vital questions when creating a so-called “living” or “dead” tea. If you asked a real lover of Tea when he picks his tea, he would say: “When it is ready to be picked.” The amount is also up to Nature. 

Fire is the energy at the center of our universe and our civilization. The stars of fire fill our sky and remind us of how vast a world we live in. And their nearest kin, our sun, lights our world and courses through all that we do. Even our technology is fueled by solar energy, fossil or renewable. Ancient people knew to respect the sun, and its relationship to our lives. They always made their sacrifices to fire. As our sky is filled with the fire of so many suns, so too is our own Mother Earth pregnant with a deep, burning warmth. That warmth has nurtured all life on this planet as much as the sunlight that enlivens us from without. And within us too is fire, which is how we digest our food and turn it into energy.

Without heat nothing moves. Tea, like all plants, translates sunlight and starlight into wood—into physical substances we can touch and taste, smell and drink. Through the plants, we absorb sun energy and motivate our bodies. The temperature in our bodies is a measurement of life itself, and consequently so many of our metaphors regarding death contain variations of the word “cold”. Internally, so many of our bodily and spiritual processes require heat, and externally fire is the center of our tribes—the beginning of civilization.

ing of civilization. In most of the mythologies of the world, fire is stolen from the gods and given to man, usually by a relay race of animals that get burned carrying it to us, which explains their color variations— in plumage, fur, etc. Such stories remind us, amongst other things, that our earthly lives are connected to greater, Heavenly circles. There is insight in understanding that the fire at the center of the first human councils, and the heat that powers our cars and jets, is all the same as the heat and fire in our sun; and that the heat in that sun is the same as the heat in its distant relatives, many of which are fueling and energizing their own planets full of life. Do those distant relations pay homage to their sun, knowing that it catalyzes all life on their planet or have they forgotten as many of us have? Though the movement of Tea begins with water, it is fire that stirs the ceremony and begins the alchemy. Imagine the tea ceremony as a dance: the water is the quiet rolling that begins. A hush so fluidly lifts us into its quiet embrace, as the dancer and her music gently drift onto the stage. But it is only when she meets the first surge of energy, and the music rises in tempo and grace that the magical alchemy of music-to-dance begins. A rhythm ensues between the water and fire, and when it peaks we will introduce it to the tea.

The tea has known temperature before. It was once a leaf on a tree, gathering sun and water through its stem. It has since been in meditation, resting without the air, temperature and water that once meant life for it. Now, we will resurrect it, returning the sun, water and air to it through the boiled water. For an old tea, it’s a long time coming. Fire is the conveyer of Tea. Without it, Tea cannot give its essence to us. Without heat in the water, the Qi is not released and conveyed to us. Also, as the tea reaches our bodies, it is the heat that allows it to spread to our extremities and communicate with our whole selves. Heat disperses the energy of Tea, releasing its fragrance and flavor as well as its soul.

Remember the poem that expresses the four principles of gongfu tea, as handed down in this tradition? We have discussed it in our gongfu tea tips articles often. As you can see, only one of the lines really has to do with external principles, and that is the first, which essentially means: maintain temperature throughout. This means that the temperature should not change from the kettle to the guests’ mouths. That is way harder than you'd think; and like most ancient gongfu principles, it takes layers upon layers of work and skill to get to the point where temperature can be steady throughout a tea ceremony

Ideally, the heat for tea should be quick and Spartan, allowing the water to retain its essence as it transforms in this way. If the heating process takes too long, the water is over-cooked and flattens, losing much of its magic. (Over-boiling also causes such flatness.) As any tea lover who experiments with heat sources knows, there is so much more to heat than just temperature, especially when it comes to boiling water for Tea. The way the heat penetrates the leaves and extracts the liquor is very different using different heat sources. Why does water from charcoal feel so much hotter even when the temperature is the same? And is there not a sense of depth to heat? Is there a difference when the heat source is even/uniform? Or how about how quickly the water is heated up? All of these issues and more are beyond just the temperature of the water. Consequently, the exploration of fire for tea is more than just heat; it is elemental. There is a lot more for the Chajin to explore than just the temperature of the water in degrees, which is only one factor in fire, the Teacher of Tea. 

 Heat Sources

There are many kinds of heat in this modern world, and each has to be weighed in terms of alchemy and suitability for tea, as well as convenience. Last month we talked about sourcing water for tea, which is similar in a lot of ways. We have to face the facts that much of the natural water sources around these days are polluted and we can’t try our teas with rain, snow and river waters to see which is better the way past tea sages could. We sometimes have to settle for what we can find, which is different for all of us depending on our living conditions. Just because you can’t fetch spring water every week, or use charcoal for every session (because you live in the city, for example), doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t do so every now and again on special occasions; or that you can’t find other ways to put more heart, attention and love into your tea practice! 

We share our experience with different kinds of heat for tea so that you can learn, explore and further your tea knowledge. All teachings are always and ever invitations to explore. Tea is a path of self-cultivation. The best tea is tea prepared with love, from the heart. And that has nothing to do with what kind of heat source you use. This article is not an exercise in snobbish judgment. As we progress on our tea journey, we naturally seek out finer tea and tea brewing methodology to bring out the best in our tea and to create sacred ceremonies that transform others. When we’re starting out, however, it’s best to keep in mind that tea is just leaves, water and heat. Heat your water with the love in your heart, and you are sure to find the best source of heat for you.

Electric Heat 

The plus side of an electric heat source is that you can control temperature very easily and consistently when heating water, and it is quick and convenient. The downside is that you are then using electric heat to power your tea ceremony rather than actual fire, and therefore lose one of the five elements. Here are the varieties of electric heat for tea: 

  1. Induction: Many electric water heaters use induction to heat the water, which is a way of reversing electromagnetic currents to create heat. While such devices are convenient and incredibly fast and efficient, they also spoil the water. Some of the energy gets in the water and changes the energetic structure. I, therefore, wouldn’t recommend using them unless convenience and speed outweigh other parameters. Using induction devices with spring water basically deflates its Qi. In many ways, induction heaters are akin to microwaving food: it is fast and convenient, but not the same as properly cooked food in some essential ways. It is not a natural heat, and this will be felt by the sensitive tea lover, especially when you compare such water with water prepared on other heat sources, even electric ones. Some of the water’s spirit is lost. Induction heaters come as plates, kettles or kettle/base sets. Some of them even impart a flavor into the water. Also, as an aside, these induction heaters are often cheaply made and rarely last for years; and sometimes they're made of sketchy plastic, etc. (though there are nicer induction kettles that you can find which are well made and a nice long-term teaware). 
  2. Iron hot plates: These electric plates are simpler than induction plates or kettles. An element heats up an iron or Teflon plate, which then heats your kettle. These are usually built stronger, last longer and make better water than induction plates or kettles. They aren’t as quick as induction, but the water will be smoother and brighter. Hot plates are also very convenient; with dials so you can boil the water and then turn the heat down to keep it warm throughout a session. If you are going to get a hot plate, we recommend real iron as opposed to coated, man-made hotplate (Teflon). The iron will make nicer water for tea. We find that German companies make excellent and affordable iron hot plates that last forever. We have a Vastar at the center, which is a Taiwanese company that produces its hot plates in Germany. 
  3. Japanese electric braziers: In the 1970’s, the modernization of the tea ceremony in Japan meant preparing tea in places where charcoal was no longer a viable option. Tea lovers invented braziers with electric coils in them that wrap around pieces of artificial charcoal to give the appearance of a charcoal arrangement. While these coils can be slow if you have a big kettle, they make nice water and look great for an electric heat source. The element is often housed in a bronze or ceramic brazier and can look gorgeous in a tea space.

  4. Infrared: Infrared plates make very nice water, as close to charcoal as we have found in an electric device. In fact, the heat in charcoal is essentially infrared as well. This technology is also convenient, fast and has a dial to control temperature, but makes water that is comparable to a real flame. Infrared plates can be cheap or expensive, depending on the wattage and the style. You will want to get one with the highest wattage possible to heat the water as quickly as you can. In Taiwan, there are nice infrared plates that are sealed into handmade clay braziers. We have several in the center and often recommend them to guests.
Gas & Alcohol 

Flames Gas and alcohol are a slight step up from electric heat sources. These stoves at least have a real flame, closer to fire in its elemental form. Though heat and fire are related, there is something very different about them. Elemental fire changes everything. Most people can tell the difference between a room heated by a fireplace and one heated by an electric radiator, just as we can distinguish between water heated on fire and that on electric burners. Alcohol burners are more for maintaining heat than for bringing the water to a boil. If you have one of those, you will want to heat the water on a gas stove and then use the alcohol burner to maintain the heat. You can either use a gas camp stove and seat it next to you while you serve tea, using a higher flame to boil and a lower flame to maintain temperature, or you can boil your kettle on gas and then use an alcohol burner by your side to keep the kettle warm. If you have two kettles, a gas stove and an alcohol burner, you can make endless water for the largest of groups. This is always our setup when we do events out in the world: one kettle boiling on the gas and the other staying warm on the alcohol burner. To do larger and larger events, you just need to add gas stoves and kettles. The downside to such camp stoves is that they use up gas cans, which aren’t good for the environment long-term. If you are going to use gas at home, it’s better to boil on the stove and then carry the water to an alcohol burner. Alcohol is inexpensive and lasts a long time, since the flame is small.


The ideal way to heat water for tea is to use charcoal. Charcoal has infrared energy, like the sun. It returns that energy to the tea. We aren’t sure of the scientific reason why, nor is it necessary for us to figure it out, but water prepared on charcoal steams much more than other water, even if they are the same exact temperature. Also, we have done experiments heating water on electric and charcoal to exactly equal temperatures and then found that everyone present could still distinguish the water heated on charcoal as being hotter and brighter. Sometimes we use the adjective “ionic”, though not in any proper scientific way We mean that the heat seems elemental, like it is in each of the atoms at their core. It feels as if more of the water’s substance is infused with heat. Such heat penetrates deeper into the tea, and then into us when we drink the liquor. The heat is penetrating, extracting and then conveying more of the tea’s essence to us. 

Our Japanese master said that a Chajin who wishes to understand charcoal should keep their coals going for three years. At the end of that time, they’ll be an expert. That is a bit hard for most people. Don’t be intimidated by charcoal. We suggest starting with a simple brazier and smokeless, non-toxic charcoal. Here in Taiwan, we start students out with a smokeless coal made of compressed coconut husks. It is good because all the pieces light uniformly and are all the same shape, which makes arranging them easier than the natural kinds of coal. Better, hardwood charcoals will burn with a more lively flame, and heat the water quicker. One of our favorites comes from the dragon eye fruit tree (long yan). Later in this issue, we will go through all the different kinds of charcoal we use here at the Hut, as well as the different kinds of braziers and charcoal implements.

You should try to experience, harness and master the heat in Tea. Harnessing heat was a huge step in human evolution. We must respect fire, and not assume we create it. Rather, we invite it into our Tea and bodies. If it is not harnessed with respect, fire can be very destructive. In order to experience the fire element in Tea more deeply, you should learn to experience it on as many levels as possible. This means gauging temperature with your senses rather than using a thermometer.

Introducing “G-wendt.” I call him that because it sounds like the name of a magical man living in a magical place, and that’s as accurate as anything I’ve got on Greg. He describes himself as a “translator”: translating the mystical, supernatural, spiritual and Divine into the parlance of our times, finance and business. Strange as it is, by day Greg is VP of Sustainable & Responsible Investing for EP Wealth Advisors, a billion dollar investment firm. Even stranger is that he does the same thing by night. 
I don’t mean he’s a workaholic, but rather that he has one of the most harmonious integrations of work and life I’ve ever encountered. He’s one of those rare magicians who seems to get paid to do what he loves and to almost seamlessly blend all the different parts of his life, until our usual mundane descriptions fall apart. Which brings me to tea... 

Six months ago, tea for Greg was a nice beverage: Hot, sometimes tasty, good in the morning or evening. This afternoon as we sat drinking the first tea from Global Tea Hut, surrounded by gorgeous Zisha (purple-sand Yixing) teaware, talking about what Greg calls “Galactivation” and the cosmic intelligence transmitted by the tea leaves, I realized that Greg’s so-called “translation skills” transcend those proposed on his business card. As a master translator, his skill really is understanding; listening; being present to meaning and content; and, moving that meaning and content from place to place as elegantly and efficiently as possible. And that’s what tea has become to Greg: a vehicle for translating the intelligence of the cosmos into the intelligence of the tea tree, and then into the intelligence of his own human form... 

Greg Wendt is a financial advisor for responsible, green investment. He’s also a tea lover, day and night. And he’s one of our most beloved brothers, sitting right there across from you in this Global Tea Hut. 

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