One of the great joys is to source tea - pure and simple.
This ‘source-time’ now approaches for me to organize and ‘find’ the next offerings for JalamTeas; and within there is the knowledge that I not only am about to imbibe outrageous amount of tea that delight (or depress), but to source teas that I think would make a nice follow up to our successful Bada Mountain Pu’er.
A brief one-hour flight from our perch at 3200 metres in Yunnan’s northwest, where my home sits in a cold vacuum of unrelenting winter, to Kunming. A three-hour wait and then another hour-long flight to Xishuangbanna’s humidity in the deep-south, and a 50 minute bus ride west follows that, and into one of the ancient basins of tea, Menghai.
While the harvest times begin as early as late February, I have long preferred going down a bit later to avoid the inevitable hype, and to see what has sold, what hasn’t, and what little gems might be lurking unloved at the rear of a forgotten tea shop, or in a villager’s home. It is in such places that ‘new’ classics or simply palate pleasers are found.
There are two teas I know are ready for the coming months’ JalamTeas’ menu; teas that I have tasted in the past month that were sent up from the tea regions to sample. They are teas that are different enough, and of a good enough quality to begood follow-ups to our current Bada Mountain Pu’er. The remaining teas are those special wonders, ‘the yet-to-be’s’. They are the yet to be sampled stunners that stopthe mouth and breath dead with their qualities…and always these teas lie in wait; unpredictable until they send their message through a cup into the mouth. After that it is a case of sorting out that ‘necessary’ of any transaction, the money.
With this trip not only will teas be sampled, but one of the other underrated aspects of sourcing will be indulged: exploring the isolated villages in the mountains, the meals taken on the floor, and the odd little venerable piece of local lore or tea-philosophy, will be taken in as well. Again and again it is the people aspect that I appreciate (and of course their generous servings of the tea) and it is one ofthe great earthly classrooms: to be amidst, to listen and ultimately to take in the knowledge.
Because of our obsession with quality – rather than quantity – we can stock up on small amounts of teas that suit the mood, or that I think might be treats for our friends.
Notes, (and sips) from the field to come.
Jeff in Yunnan