When Estee Cheng from Esteas reached out and asked if I wanted to try her teas, I was excited, especially for the Duck Shit Oolong. I’d seen it around and have always been curious what all the hype was about, and where the name came from so I looked forward to tasting it.
I received four samples to try:
Duck Shit Oolong is floral and sweet. I loved this tea and can see why the farmers wanted to trick people into not wanting it with the name they gave it (see full story in the Q&A with Estee Cheng, following these tasting notes).
Honey Orchid Oolong is a sweet treat. This tea is fragrant and floral, with a slight buttery taste to it and a tart, hoppy finish.
Chinese Red Tea, which is a black tea, is aromatic, floral and sweet, with a dark and rich liquor.
Yellow Gardenia Oolong just the slightest floral elements in this steep. I love its buttery flavor. This one also had a hoppyness to it, but much less than the honey orchid oolong.
Q: Tell me about the process for starting Esteas. What were your goals for the company?
A: After graduating from university, I did what most lost students do and took my first job offer. I was working in entertainment in LA and felt very overwhelmed yet unfulfilled. In order to cope with stress and stay alert, I would have Gong Fu Tea sessions in my cubicle, which quickly became the highlight of my days. Intrigued, co-workers would walk by and ask why I was drinking tea from tiny cups and I introduced them to tea they’ve never had before. They all loved it and reaped the same benefits of mindfulness that I did. I felt there was massive potential in promoting Chinese tea culture.
My goals for this company are to promote authentic Chinese tea, encourage practicing mindfulness by slowing down for a cup of tea, and partner with small family farmers to provide a sustainable living for the people that make tea farming their life.
Q: How did you get into tea? Tell me about your first tea experience/memory.
A: My family is very tea obsessed. We are from a town in China called Chaozhou, where Gong Fu Tea was invented and the best oolong tea is grown. Men and women in Chaozhou cannot go a day without drinking Gong Fu tea. It is a ritual, and a form of hospitality.
My first tea experience was with my grandfather, my main inspiration for starting this tea company. I was a few years old and watched my grandfather drink Gong Fu tea. The small cups reminded me of my own children’s tea set, so I wanted to get involved. Immediately, I loved the taste of tea, the action of pouring tea into small cups, and bonding with my grandfather. I haven’t gone a day without drinking tea since.
My current collection of teas is called Longevitea, inspired by my grandfather who is in his 90’s. He credits his health to drinking oolong tea daily; he drinks 2 kilograms of tea a month, all Gong Fu style! These teas are all sourced from his hometown.
Q: Do the teas all come from the same farm in China? How did you choose which one to work with?
A: After I decided I wanted to start a tea business, I was very gutsy and bought a plane ticket to China without any prior connections to tea farms. Luckily, I was able to communicate with locals because I am fluent in the Chaozhou language, a dialect of Chinese. I immediately started networking with tea shop owners, tea ceramic owners, even taxi cab drivers. Through networking, I visited a few tea farms but was unsatisfied with the quality. On one of my last days in China, I met the Wei Family.
Mr. and Mrs. Wei are two extremely hard working young parents making an honest living supporting their small family. Although their jobs may be strenuous at times, the family has a deep passion for tea and wouldn’t trade their livelihoods for anything. Choosing them as Esteas’ first partner was an easy decision: not only do they produce phenomenal oolong tea and commit to their craft, they were extremely generous and hospitable towards me and even prepared a homemade meal with fresh produce from their garden.
Currently, all the teas are produced from the Wei Family in the Phoenix Mountains in Chaozhou, China. The current selection of teas are hand-picked Spring of 2019. In a few months, they will begin picking the first flush of 2020 tea.
Q: This is my first time trying duck shit oolong. I’ve seen it around on teastagram, and read a bit about it online, but share some information with my readers where the name comes from.
A: Duck Shit Oolong (Chinese: yā shǐ xiāng 鸭屎香) is the most notable oolong from the Phoenix Mountains. Legend says the farmer who discovered the crop wanted to keep this delicious tea to himself, so he devised an unconventional name – derived from the yellow tint of the soil it’s grown in, a key element in the tea’s exceptional taste – to deter others from stealing the crop. And the name stuck! But fear not, there is no duck feces involved.
Q: What are your long-term goals for Esteas?
A: My long-term goal for this business is to change people’s image of tea. I want tea to be something fun and enjoyable, not just associated to a poor quality teabag and something you drink when you are sick. I want to promote tea in its purest form, hand-picked and hand-crafted from farmers. My goal is to support small family farmers, promote Chinese tea culture and share it with the rest of the world.