A Bulang woman shares tales of life and tea, and life with tea. The Bulang and local Dai minority share similar language and traditions of tea in the south and west of Xishuangbanna Prefecture in souther Yunnan.
Our Bulang Shou offering is a recent 2014 Autumn harvest from one of the great and ancient ‘nests’ of Puerh tea, the Bulang Mountains of southern Yunnan province. Harvested by the Bulang people near the village of Lao Ma Er, this oxidized tea is a smooth tea using leaves from 20-40 year old bushes scattered on an eastern facing slope. It is also a great winter tea adding more of a warmth to the body than its ‘sheng’ or raw green relative. Locals of Yunnan will often refer to cooked ‘shou’s’ as teas for late night or colder temperatures. Generally containing less stimulants and caffeine they are teas that can be sipped in the afternoons and evenings without the destructive stimulant abilities that keep many absolutely awake.
It also ranks as a tea in Hong Kong and Taiwan that is kind to hangovers and those suffering the after-effects of over-indulging with other kinds of beverages. Villagers of Lao Ma Er have potent alcohols that they’ve long made by hand and they will simply say “any tea” is a good solution.
A tea taster from Guangdong samples teas harvested from Bulang Mountain with a look, a sniff, a sip, and more sips.
We’ve returned to this region because of the raw nature of the teas and the production which has improved steadily over the years. In the not so distant past it was common for dust, feathers and scrapings in tea from these hills, but quality of production and the final product has happily become something almost predictable in certain villages. Our procurer of leaves, Jeff, loves the region and the fact that amounts of available tea are generally limited and steadily improving. He returns to certain villages often to sip because of some of the great teas that almost by accident are created. In his words, “Unpredictability is great fun when discovering and seeking out special batches because you can discover a classic almost by accident but never have it replicated. It exists in one errant harvest, and then never again”.
Young tea bushes that will need between 2-4 years more of growth before they can begin to produce teas of quality near the village of Lao Ma Er.
In shou teas (artificially oxidized) villages generally don’t use the best leaves of a harvest instead preferring to use leaves that may not appear as clean or symmetrical. Because the process of oxidizing a tea takes away some of the bitter ends of a tea, there isn’t so much worry in how powerful or over the top a harvest of tea might be initially.
Bulang tea harvesters in a field of young tea bushes that are less than 30 years old. There are young bushes, medium aged bushes and old or ancient bushes and trees and this fact should always be marked or stated when buying Puerhs.
Much of the Bulang region remains difficult to access during the wet summer months and very little tea production or harvesting is done. The coveted Spring season produces the best teas, according to many, though one will often find villagers preferring a summer or autumn harvest because of the rougher edges of flavor and more pungent nature. While our tea has some of the strength that one associates with autumn teas, it remains smooth.
A Bulang woman harvests tea leaves in autumn of 2014. For many of the indigenous there are no real seasons for much of their teas. They pick throughout the year in small increments, never over harvesting. For teas, particularly the famed regions, there are distinctive harvest seasons which again are usually marked or stated.
Our Bulang offering comes from altitudes of 1200 metres and is entirely hand picked by tannin-stained finger nails of the Bulang minority.
- 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 Bulang tea experience.
This cooked or ‘shou’ tea is dark and has been artificially oxidized and generally doesn’t need quite as much time to produce an elixir of dark enough color (or flavor), so experiment a little with infusion times and amounts of tea leaves.
Use fully boiled water, as the large leaf 'Camellia Sinensis Assamica' (Puerh) can handle the heat.
If this is your first tea cake, here is a step-by-step guide on how to break and prepare a tea cake.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You have my ears and I will get back in touch with you.