A Hani harvester peers through her ‘work’. Part of the harvester’s responsibility beyond simply picking is knowing which leaves and buds are ready. One of the great ills of modern tea ‘culture’ is that there are often minimum quotas for monthly harvests during peak periods. In many of the regions this is not the case and it bodes well for the communities who do not heed such dictates.
Altitude isn’t always a sign of a superior tea, just as a good fry isn’t going to be responsible for a classic tea. One of the beautiful elements of a hand made tea is that there are several stages which must be entirely ‘on’ for the tea to flourish. Accidental beauties aren’t uncommon but they are hard to accidently repeat. There are a couple of teas that for us at JalamTeas can count on for consistency and for flair.
Nothing better than a little action in the teahouse preparing for an onslaught of sipping. Bottom right a freshly harvested batch waits to be sampled.
Bada is one of them, either in its raw ‘sheng’ form, or in its cooked ‘shou’ form. In the case of this month’s Bada Sheng, altitude does contribute to the teas’ initial strengths. The 1500-1600 metre harvest spots are part of the high- altitude classification of the tea world for Puerhs. This autumn 2015 harvest benefited from the slightly cooler average temperatures and the wonderful drainage that is possible on the slopes. Higher elevation can but doesn’t always mean a tea will be better. Higher altitudes do mean less of the world of viruses, and bugs that enjoy a little nibble or two on the leaves.
Fresh batches like these constitute what is sampled by Jeff. Bags are opened, leaves are looked at, fawned over and ultimately sampled…then sampled again.
We’ve had some classics from Bada Mountain and this present offering fits in with the previous years’ quality, albeit with a little more force and power when it hits the mouth. Carrying the smooth width that all of our Bada’s have, this one might be called a tea with a little more edge. Gorgeous light malt hints with the very-Bada’ish vegetal purity that strikes directly onto the palate. Some of the initial lateral strength that comes from the tea is because this particular batch had slightly more time sun-drying than usual. This sometimes brings up a flavor profile more quickly. Every producer has a slightly different ratio of sun to shade drying, and this particular batch was enjoyed a little more sun than shade.
Frying of the leaves requires a soft but non-stop motion of churning.
The Hani people of the area have lost nothing of their commitment to producing wonderful teas that are superb for ageing a bit. We recommend that if the tea isn’t an immediate consumptive need, you allow this Bada to age and soften slightly. By the end of 2016 this tea will be at a kind of peak in its evolution, in our humble opinion.
The fry begins with a young master. In tea production there can be many who assist but only masters or those with the ‘touch’ who can do the fry.
Bushes that provided leaves for this particular harvest come from 40-60 year old bushes which have had ample time to set down their tap-roots straight down into the mineral rich soils. Manyue village has a reputation for ideal conditions for that most oddly named tea, Puerh and Jeff consistently comes back here to source.
Drying leaves in carefully thinned out layers on a protected floor. More sun will sometimes bring out the stronger flavours of a tea more quickly.
The stem content is also a great find in any tea because it is in such stems that so much of the teas’ phytochemical’s, minerals and volatile ingredients travel through, leaving traces of themselves absolutely.
As you unwrap the paper you’ll also notice the brilliant ratio of buds to leaves, which has been one of the major reasons we continue to stick by Bada teas. This ratio contributes greatly to both subtleties flavor-wise and to the ageing ability of the tea. A delicious classic with width in the mouth, hints of malt and backed by that familiar vegetal force that Bada does so well.
- 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 Raw tea experience.
When Puerh teas ‘age’ their colour deepens and becomes slightly less vegetal, but they will ‘feel’ stronger. We suggest trying to find a taste (and not necessarily a ‘colour’) that suits the palate. This Bada has an initial bit of strength that will soften with time. It is a great tea to age as it has a robust and complete profile.
If this is your first tea cake, here is a step-by-step guide on how to break and prepare a tea cake.
Use fully boiled water, as the large leaf 'Camellia Sinensis Assamica' (Puerh) can handle the heat, and we again promote some experimentation with times and amounts of dry leaves.
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.