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For over a thousand years, China’s finest green teas have been grown and prepared in the mountains south of Hángzhōu. At the end of a winding valley, in a small village at the foot of Fēng Wù mountain, Sòng’s family has lived and cultivated green teas for almost three centuries. The Fēng Wù mountains moderate climate and 2000’ to 3000’ elevation is ideal for green teas. The area is almost entirely tree covered, punctuated by small lakes, narrow rivers, and only occasional villages. The most common visitor to these parts are the mists that envelop the mountain peaks and diffuse soft bluish light on the tall drooping bamboo and rows of neatly planted teas.
Mr. Sòng was born in 1949, the same year as the founding of the “New China” and its People’s Republic. He grew up in a period of post-war reconstruction, social upheaval, and sacrifice. Young children were needed in the fields to help with planting, harvesting, and processing the tea. The life of a boy in poor farming village was one many sought to escape; instead as Sòng ascended the steep slopes, explored the ravines, and minded the fields he discovered a natural world in tea that demanded commitment and delivered hardships, but that offered a beauty and harmony with which he fell in love.
The young Sòng learned from his grandfather how to cultivate, protect, and prepare teas according to the village’s time-tested practices. He learned secrets for growing and blending herbs to make Chinese traditional medicines that would lure insects away from bushes, and tricks to isolate and remove other more stubborn pests. Over the years, he experimented with many cultivation techniques and greatly improved yields. However, based on the philosophy and wisdom passed down from his grandfather, he never adopted any chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. His grandfather was resolutely skeptical of these chemical brews and dared not risk the one inheritance he intended to pass down to his children and grandchildren, that of a rich, fertile, natural farm on a healthy mountain with good, pure soil and clean water. Mr. Song is the seventh generation to follow this path.
In the 1990’s the value of his grandfather’s foresight, their family’s traditions, and years of his hard work began to materialize. The Sòng family farms were among the first large plantations officially recognized as organic by the China Agricultural Science Institute’s Tea Research Center. The Song’s first international certification, from Germany’s BCS, was received in 1999.