Master Huang’s family began making tea around the end of the Ming Dynasty/beginning of the Qing dynasty, living for over 300 years inside of the area which came to be the Wuyi Scenic Reserve. Their family home and tea gardens were in a place called ‘Shui Lian Dong’.
With the beginning of the Communist party's rule & the cultural revolution, Master Huang’s family, and all those living in Wuyi were moved from their homes and resettled to a village outside entrance of the park.
After the death of Chairman Mao, one of his successors, Deng Xiaoping, began a policy of Economic Reforms and Openness (Gaige Kaifang) that began with the de-collectivization of the countryside. The local government ruled that responsibility for the old trees and tea gardens should be given back to the farmers. Master Huang had good connections and was well respected by the local government officials and, as it was thought that he would be a trusted caretaker for these old trees and skilled producer of high quality Wuyi rock tea, the majority of the old trees and gardens within the park were transferred into his guardianship.
Master Huang cares for these old trees and each year uses his great skill to make excellent quality teas. Although in recent years the popularity of Wuyi rock tea has grown and demand has led many to eschew their traditional methods in favour of larger scale productions, Master Huang still practices the traditional hand production of yancha. This year has seen the completion of a traditional tea processing studio, built from clay bricks, which allow the room and the wilting tea inside to breathe in a way that isn’t possible in the modern concrete based buildings used throughout the area.
His studio exemplifies to his desire to maintain traditional methods, with rooms devoted to handrolling, basket wilting & bruising, wok based kill green and charcoal roasting.
As was the case with the previous generations of his family, Master Huang has been instructing his son since an early age in the art of making handprocessed yancha.
Each year they produce both fully handmade rock tea from the oldest and most special trees in their gardens and also a more affordable ‘half-handmade’ rock tea, still from old trees growing naturally deep within the park.
Master Huang Xianyi can be seen in this video after the 15min mark.