When Tibetan pilgrims travel around sacred lakes or to sacred sites, they bring few possessions but not one travels without tea. It is both fuel and something communal. These pilgrims from Qinghai are circumambulating the Kawa Karpo Mountain range in northwestern Yunnan province.
Summer is here and nothing can beat heat like a ‘little bit of bitter tang’. Bitterness fights heat, relaxes the heart and nervous system and there are few tea regions to find great bitter ranges than from Bulang Mountain.
This present offering is an autumn 2014 harvest and it carries bits of coppery sweetness that is typical of the region. A bit of fresh zing comes through and we recommend using some of the leftovers to create some cold summer tea. A mason jar in the fridge with slightly stronger than normal infusions will provide great pick me ups for afternoons. No additions are necessary and it is a great way to ensure that nothing is wasted of a particular tea serving.
An ancient tea tree within the greater Bulang Mountain range. Such trees are sacred for both their economic and sacred value.
Bulang Mountain has long been one of the southern strongholds of the Yunnan Big Leaf arboreal offerings of Puerh. Smuggling routes snake through the mountains and stream into Laos and Burma. The Hani and Lahu minorities, and the Bulang and Wa peoples populates the mountains, each with their own particular style of creating teas. Each minority and region is known for a general flavor profile, and certain definable strengths and expectations. The Hani people create smooth and even bodied teas with particular attention payed to the frying process. The Lahu and Wa peoples create teas that are raw and powerful, while the Bulang have traditionally been known to produce teas with a little more natural vegetal astringency.
Prime Yunnan Big Leaf examples with wide bodies and serrated edges. ‘Imperfect’ leaves with damage from the odd creature isn’t a bad thing as it points to the intuitive ‘organic’ nature of many of the indigenous people’s tea bushes and trees.
Sheng or raw Puerhs are teas that contain much ‘energy’ in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine Circles) or ‘qi’, so it is a tea that for most is best to consume when in need of some stimulation.
This offering from us comes from leaves harvested at 1400 metres from bushes that are 40-50 years old. Bulang teas are sometimes fried for slightly less time at slightly higher temperatures bringing some of the flavors ‘up’ faster. Another of our teas from the Lao Ma Er village which is tucked deep into the east-west ranging Bulang Mountains.
Villages throughout southern Yunnan are being rebuilt by funds entirely from tea like this one in the Bulang Mountains.
For an authentic ‘cold’ tea offering we recommend preparing tea exactly as you would for a normal serving with the same amount of leaves steeped for the same amount of time (or a fraction longer). Stronger teas will soften slightly when chilled. Pouring infusions into a Mason jar (which is itself sitting in a pot or bowl of room- temperature water), allow the Mason jar to cool and then cover and put in the refrigerator and unseal and sip when ready. No additions are necessary and the tea will refresh, stimulate and be entirely ready in a moment….or one can simply prepare a hot serving as there is nothing quite as perfect as a prepared hot cup of hot tea.
No piece of business, tea or otherwise is ever complete without several meals with the Yunnan flavours of sour, sweet, and spice. One of the great joys of travel in Yunnan.
We love the Bulang people’s leafy offerings and our procurer Jeff often touts that when they get teas right, they are stunners. We hope you enjoy this summer offering and can feel a bit of that stunning bite that we so love.
- 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 Sheng tea experience.
This is a great summer tea with some great bite and don’t be afraid to try it cold with slightly stronger infusions. The bite and slight astringency are considered good things in a Puerh…as long as they don’t last long in the mouth.
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 [email protected]. You have my ears and I will get back in touch with you.