Ba Ka Ngoi is a Bulang village within the famed Puerh region of the Bulang Mountains, perching on the western end in southwestern Yunnan. For us, and many drinkers that we’ve heard from over 7 years, the leaves from here translate into one of the most preferred Shou Puerhs that we’ve ever offered. There are as many opinions on the reasons why as there have been sippers of the smooth nutty brew.
A small tea bush grows amidst Oregano in a bit of permaculture wisdom. Oregano keeps many pests naturally at bay.
One of the reasons ‘we’ suspect is that besides an attentive processing and pile fermentation process, is that the leaves and the initial processing before the pile fermentation (the normal picking, withering, frying, drying process) are coaxed into creating slightly stronger and more vegetal leaves. The entire pile fermentation process, whereby bacteria and microbes are added softening the flavours, and darkening the leaves and giving the overall impression that the leaves have ‘aged’. The more robust and defined the leaves already are, the more this will carry through the fermentation process (Shou Puerh is often referred to as ‘post fermented’) delivering a still robust, though significantly smoother offering.
A Bulang woman begins preparations to make An Mem. Freshly harvested leaves get boiled, wrung out and compressed into Bamboo, after which it is all buried.
Bulang Mountain and its Bulang inhabitants have been steadily increasing the quality of their offerings. Villages like Ba Ka Ngoi and Lao Ma E have become successively more well known for their superb raw materials - and equally important - improved productions methods. In the past the region’s teas were known as rough, dusty teas with great leaves but not so great attention to the actual production end.
Freshly boiled leaves getting stirred up, which removes much of the excess water.
The Bulang people are some of the original inhabitants of Xishuangbanna in southern Yunnan’s tea regions, and are considered true mountain people along with the Wa and Lahu. Though largely Buddhist, the Bulang retain strands of their animist past and often adorn their village gates and doorways with tied lengths of rattan. They also hold onto one of the more ancient recipes for tea leaves, known as An Mem (phonetic spelling) in their language. An old process by which freshly clipped tea leaves are buried in Bamboo in soil surrounding homesteads, only to be dug up and consumed with rice for special festivals.
Behind the leaves, there are always hands and people. Bulang women harvest leaves as the day ends. ‘Imperfect’ looking leaves denote a lack of pesticides.
Like with all Puerhs, we recommend dry storage in an open or partly covered container so that the caked leaves might get air circulation (which unlike many teas, it needs). A cool and dry place with limited exposure to scents, odors, or wonderful cooking wafts. It can rest on or next to other cakes, though we suggest not placing any Sheng cakes on top of Shou cakes. Faint traces of smell and flavor can and will transfer.
Little seen, the root of a tea plant shows how it drives straight down to find sustenance. Southern Yunnan is known for its heavy clay soils and relatively high acidity levels along with tones of red and orange.
Flavour wise, this Ba Ka Ngoi is a crisp offering that is smooth with that little hint of bite that many Bulang Mountain teas carry. Clean notes with a little nutty edge, it is a great tea for first thing in the morning, particularly in the morning. No bitterness and no acidity on the digestive track, it is also a lower stimulant kick than its Sheng cousins so is suitable for a later in the day sip(s).
While we encourage each drinker to tinker with infusion times and amounts of tea used according to taste, the below is a good base from which to begin the JalamTeas Ba Ka Ngoi Shou experience.
If this is your first tea cake, here is a step-by-step guide on how to break and prepare a tea cake.
Do not be afraid to make a stronger brew than you might be accustomed to. The tea can use some extra leaves or time to strengthen the infusion. This is a great neutral tea and can easily handle flexible infusion times. We recommend rinsing the first infusion and not consuming it. Shou teas should be ‘cleaned’ with that first infusion in our opinion.
We recommend not less than 6 grams per serving; ideally 8 grams. Locals in southern Yunnan will use as much as 12 grams and wring out more than a dozen infusions, keeping the infusion times relatively short.
When the tongue ceases to enjoy an infusion's strength, that is the time to begin anew with a fresh load of leaves.
Don't be shy to ask me any questions about your tea leaves or anything related at [email protected]. You have my ears and I will get back in touch with you.