Tea’s vital role as a social cementer, offering and tribute throughout Asia, India and Central Asia cannot be overstated. Here porters enjoy a rare moment of peace and warmth within a tent at close to 5000 metres in the Garhwal Himalayas. “Tea, is necessary for all things to move forward”, says one porter.
Several villages within the Bada Mountain chain produce teas – and usually excellent ones. The Bada story is one that combines superb isolated landscapes with a legacy of fame, largely due to its ancient trees. Only a very small percent of the tea within the Bada Mountain region that is produced constitutes ancient tree harvests (gu shu), though there is a lot more on the market than would seem possible. Fakes abound and particularly with classic tea mountain denominations: Yiwu, Banzhang, Jing Mai, and Bada as well.
What is often forgotten about tea’s journeys is that the caravans that carried Puerh had to make their way through landscapes that themselves helped to ‘age’ or affect teas. Altitude, duration, temperature spikes and drops all had a role to play in Puerh’s unique flavour range.
The Bada Mountain sanctuary is predominantly Hani and this present offering from Manyue village is from their hands. This Sheng or ‘raw’ cake comes from 30-45 year old tea bushes that sit on deep slopes that are vital for drainage of the bushes. Harvested in the summer of 2015, this tea has had time to soften and settle. We go with the notion that locals have been on about for years, namely that Puerhs benefit from a 6-18 month initial period after having been produced, to soften slightly and hit a kind of perfect zone for beginning to sip. Many prefer (or claim a preference for) aged Puerhs, while others like a good strong and slightly powerful vegetal hit of a freshly produced Puerh. Most local tea producers that our procurer Jeff sits and sips with, claim that a year or so is good to let the active ingredients bind and “settle”.
Puerh is recommended to be served in either a ceramic server or a clay pot. Because it needs boiling water, both act as s perfect conduits. Clay pots are porous and conduct heat well and ceramic can handle fully boiled water, though ceramic is superior because it can be cleaned and host another tea, whereas a clay pot ideally serves one kind of tea only because of its ability to retain flavonoids and vegetal proteins in its pores.
Bada teas have long benefited from a kind of perfect green storm of effects: climate, isolation and altitude, along with a standardized production method. For decades the region of Xishuangbanna of southern Yunnan Province had a wealth of raw materials but only a limited number of gardens or forests had competent hands that could produce hygienic and consistent offerings.
The wonderful, casual chaos of a tea shop in Hong Kong specializing in Puerhs.
While there are many who make the claim that they prefer a specific region’s or mountain’s teas, it is more likely that they prefer a certain methodology of a particular producer when picking, withering, frying and drying. Though there are distinctions within each tea because of soil, weather, and mineral content, the hands that produce the leaves have the final say in a flavor and serve either to enhance a tea…or diminish it. A village may produce several harvests a year, each with a variation due to precipitation or amount of sun and heat. Other villages may be constantly harvesting so that a Spring or Summer harvest may in fact have crossover leaves. What is vital is that a tea is true to its geographic zone, true to its ‘age of bush or tree’ and produced well.
For many, Puerh’s perfection lies in the fact that it develops with age. Though there are no hard and fast rules to whether it gets ‘better’, it is the sole tea that can be left alone without further manipulation and slowly change its constitution over months, years, and even decades. In many ways, Puerh’s value never really decreases.
There is a wonderful ratio of older and newer buds and shoots within this Bada tea offering and this is one of hallmarks of our experiences with Manyue village in Bada Mountain. Plucked from bushes between 1300-1500 meters, it is a testament tea to the Manyue Village version of consistency.
Though a designation tag or stamp often appear in a tea cake and were originally supposed to authenticate a tea, there isn’t any guarantee of anything relating to quality or even legitimacy.
Part of the notion of offering a new tea every month is so that distinct and sometimes very subtle variations are felt when sipping a tea. Not every tea has to be enjoyed as thoroughly as others but it is a nice ride to be taken on. This Bada has a kind of classic flavor profile for a Puerh: bitter sweet, long finishes, and deep molar biting impact in the mouth. Enjoy with others, or simply something entirely quiet and alone.
- Jeff Fuchs
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' Bada Mountain Manyue tea experience.
If this is your first tea cake, here is a step-by-step guide on how to break and prepare a tea cake.
Play with infusion times though this tea carries strength so ensure you find your perfect infusion time and amount of leaves. Also, do try the first infusion without throwing it. These leaves have not been sprayed and though the first infusion is used by many to cleanse, our procurer Jeff almost always sips the first. Use fully boiled water.
We recommend not less than 6 grams per serving; ideally 8-10 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.