Our MastersTea Journal

Hakka Roundhouse & Master Wang

By September 24, 2013 January 27th, 2014 No Comments

A salesman who sells vegetable seeds came to one of the Hakka Roundhouses with his bell. He sits by the well, which supplies daily drinking water to all the families in the Roundhouse.

I visited a few tea villages together with tea maker Master Wang. A few of the families from these villages supply their Dan Cong tea leaves to Master Wang – “I don’t buy the leaves from many of the families. To me, only the tea which grows above 700 meters is good”, he said. I did some more research on Master Wang later and found out that he has sometimes even moved a few of his own ancient tea trees further up the mountain he owns to above 700 meters and selected the best position for them to grow and thrive.

Because of a political issue 60 years ago, Master Wang had to leave the school and come home to his relatives when he was only 10 years old. His family specialized in Dan Cong tea (Single bushes 单枞). They owned some ancient tea trees up in the mountain and a tea field. Together with his brother, he studied “Mountain” landscape, which included water, wind, soil, sunlight, directional factors from several years… before they allowed to learn about planting tea trees and processing the tea leaves. They both became confident tea makers in the 1960s. Now, his brother has passed away, Master Wang himself owns 5 ancient Dan Cong tea trees from the Song Dynasty, which are about 800 years old. He has also invented his own kiln to roast his teas, which have won many prizes including “Dan Cong Tea King Prize 单枞茶王”. Because of his experience and his award winning teas, he is often invited to important national tea conference and events. “They call me the professor without a degree.” He told me and smiled. He is however a top national level judging master (国家高级评茶师).

In the video, you can see life in a tea making Hakka roundhouse – Here one family lives behind each door. The lady you see first asked me to photograph her flowers, “Take a picture! Looking how pretty they are. I grow them.” she said proudly. Then we heard a bell ring and saw a salesman with his big bronze bell and bamboo basket come into the yard – “He sells vegetable seeds.” they told me. He and his bell became a source of great excitement for the kids.

Master Wang’s daughter is also in the video. She is the only of his 3 daughters who is following her father’s footsteps and works as a teamaker. They work closely together. During the busiest periods they both live up in the mountains and work together with the people they hire.

Please click here to view the video – One of the hakka 客家 roundhouses 土寨楼

The village well

A tea maker with a blooming Camellia bush – “It shows good Feng Shui.” Master Wang said.

Two “Ying Yang” puppies in the village

Another puppy

Indoor withering

On the way from one village to another, Master Wang often stopped to check older individual tea trees like this one that is over 100 years old.

On the way to the higher mountains, we passed by many small hills that look like this one – basically over-farmed monocultures of clonal Phoenix teas, which have destroyed the local landscape. This is worrying as it is these types of estates that produce the so called “premium” “rare” Dan Cong that are often exported.

Often lower quality Dan Cong tea is withered by busy roads.