- [Narrator] Tea is the most popular drink in the world.
And there are countless ways we make and consume it.
But if you wanna drink tea
in the oldest way we still know of,
you'll first need to hike deep into the remote Tea Mountains
of Southwest China and handpick leaves and buds
from tea trees that are hundreds of years old.
It's a long way to go for authentic Chinese tea,
but one person is doing it.
- [Announcer] This Great Big Story was made possible by UBS
- My name's Shunan Tang, I'm the owner of Tea Drunk,
which is a tea house in New York City.
We specialize in historic Chinese tea.
Historic tea is really representing
a pinnacle of tea culture.
And these teas are usually not mass produced.
And they're trying to be as authentic
to the tea as possible.
It's almost like a masterpiece of music played
versus a practice or a original piece of art work
versus the copies.
- [Narrator] The masterpiece tea, so to speak,
comes from ancient tea trees that grow in the wild.
They only bud for 15 days out of the year.
So Shunan must race each spring to find the trees
and harvest them in time with the help of local farmers.
- The best tea trees are always on
some the hardest to get to places
because they need to be on very steep slopes.
We usually motorcycle a little bit.
Sometimes we tread water.
Sometimes we climb.
In this region is not uncommon for tea trees to grow
for several hundred years.
These tea trees right now is at its prime.
And this is what tea is meant to taste like.
Once we pick the tea,
we need to spread it out in a whole area
where the water can travel out
before we can wok fry the tea.
This step is to kill the enzymes
so the tea's fermentation can be stopped.
Then we take the tea leaves out, and then we roll the tea.
Once the sun dry the tea,
you need to pick out any discoloration.
This sorting process usually takes months to finish
because we do have to do them one by one
with every single tea.
- [Narrator] Months will go by before this tea is ready
to be poured out,
but the journey is well worth it to Shannon.
- Those extreme, fine points in taste the tea offers us.
I think it provides us a level of joy
that's beyond anything else.
And my job here is to preserve this art
and hopefully even push it to a new height.