Since 2004, Rishi Tea has been working with artisan tea farmers in Xuan En county of Hubei province in central China to produce some of the most pure green teas we’ve ever tasted. We originally partnered with tea farmers in Jinghua county of Zhejiang province for our everyday green tea known as Wulu, or “Jade Cloud.” After discovering the unique character found in the green teas produced by the tea farmers in the remote, high elevation tea gardens in Xuan En, we decided to work with those farmers to produce Rishi’s distinctive Jade Cloud organic green tea. Our Jade Cloud is our signature green tea because of its special processing and blending method that we adapted to this area’s local and introduced small leaf green tea bush cultivars. This panoramic view shows the organic tea gardens at Ma’An village in Xuan En county in China’s central Hubei province.
Spring harvestLocal tea farmers of the Tujia ethnic minority group harvesting tea in early April to make Rishi’s Jade Cloud organic green tea. This region of remote southwestern Hubei is home to both the Tujia and the Miao ethnic minority groups, each with their own cultures that have been linked with tea cultivation for centuries.
Organic farm management
Rapeseed, the oil of which is used for cooking, is planted near the organic tea gardens at Ma’An village in Xuan En, to help maintain soil health and to draw insects away from the tea plants. This patch of rapeseed plants was abuzz with bees and other bugs when Rishi’s tea buyer snapped this photograph.
Ma’An Tea Co-op
Organic tea gardens stretch out before Ma’An tea co-op factory in the background. Rishi’s Jade Cloud organic green tea is made with a special blend of teas produced at several farms. Ma’An is one of these farms. Our tea buyers travel to Xuan En every spring to taste dozens of micro-lots and select the very best to create our signature Jade Cloud green tea according to our proprietary taste profile.
The organic tea gardens at Ma’An village are situated at about 1,000–1,200m in elevation. Here, the fresh mountain air creates a clean, pure growing environment with an ecological balance including a mix of pine forests, wild culinary herbs, and flowers. The tea gardens are interspersed amongst patches of native vegetation and forestry.
This tea garden at Ma’An village in Xuan En are situated at nearly 1,200m above sea level in elevation. Our other organic tea gardens in Xuan En are situated between 800m–nearly 2,000m above sea level. This high elevation growing condition results in a very tender green tea, nurtured by the clouds and cool mist of early spring. With lower sunlight penetrating through the misty air, the tea bushes grow more slowly than those at lower elevations. They develop rich, mature flavors and a deep umami nuttiness not found lower on the mountain. This is due to the tea bushes producing more L-theanine amino acid at high elevation and lower concentrations of catechin polyphenol, which gives tea its astringency. This creates the smooth, rich and almost brothy-tasting flavor profile that Rishi’s Jade Cloud is known for.
Local tea bush cultivars
The tea gardens in Xuan’En are planted with various small leaf tea bush cultivars, including those like Longjing #43 that were introduced from outside the province and adapted to the local terroir, as well as those like the E-Cha #10 cultivar tea bushes seen here, which are native to western Hubei.
Amongst the Wuling Mountains
Our organic tea gardens at Xuan En are situated amongst the Wuling Mountain range, which rolls into western Hubei province from neighboring Sichuan province, creating an ideal high elevation mountainous climate for organic tea, vegetable and herb gardens.
The tea gardens in Xuan En are extraordinarily rich in minerals, most notably selenium, which nurtures the tea bushes to produce tea leaves that have a remarkable density in flavor.
Many of the organic tea gardens throughout Xuan En are managed by smallholders like Ms. Yang, seen here harvesting spring green tea. Smallholders sell their tea to local tea factories and benefit from the Fair Trade co-op established in Xuan En.
High-elevation soil management
Rapeseed planted at very high elevations helps retain nitrogen in soil that would otherwise wash away in runoff down the mountain slopes. Rapeseed is also a useful cover crop during the cold winters in Hubei.