Yes I am a little obsessed with Gushu (old tea trees). This is not because it sounds rare or because it commands higher prices, I have never placed any importance on 'snob value'. I love Gushu because of the way that it tastes - powerful, complicated and enduring.
I have heard that the ageing of this tea has generated a bit of controversy and a fair amount of cyber-hating (clients have told us of epic, accusative threads on tea forums which I have absolutley no desire to read!). To be honest, I can totally understand the doubters and I have no problem them questioning the age of the trees but I think I should make a few things clear.
Firstly, other than causing damage to the tree by boring a hole and counting rings (eek!) it is impossible to accurately measure its age. So no-one out there can be sure of the age of the trees of their tea and all tea sellers are making a best guess.
The way that we guess age is using the girth of the main trunk and comparing it with independent literature on the subject. We put this information side by side with the information from our suppliers and any other research about the area and we come up with our best guess ageing. We may be wrong (and perhaps we were with this one) but I have absolutely no doubt from standing next to these trees that this tea comes from seriously ancient arbor trees. All you have to do is taste it and I am sure that any Gushu afficionado would give it the nod of approval.
We have been in the China sourcing business for over 45 years. Since before I was born my family has been building connections with growers and producers all over China and I have personally been sourcing our own brand tea for over 15 years.
I am therefore privileged to have a fabulous and trusted network of friends over there in the motherland and beyond with some amazing produce. I understand the challenges of sourcing too, and I have been fed every story in the book about the legitimacy of a tea or herb or medicine. I have been burnt, made mistakes and chalked it up to experience but I have never tried to dupe any of my clients.
So, if you question the ageing of Gushu tea trees then that's fair enough - it is not an easy one to get right and we will continue to push for more accuracy. But I hope that some of the doubters out there were gracious enough to try a sampler of Tiger Spirit when it was available (it has all sold out). I am sure that those that did, quietly enjoyed the Gushu intensity of the Tiger.