A Dai elder carefully sorts tea leaves by hand in a practise that has changed little. Though all leaves will be used, for the premium offerings and particularly those from the ancient trees, any dust or damaged leaves will be removed by hand and a couple of firm shakes of the wicker. Tea is still inextricably linked to the work that hands (and not machines) do.
A great joy that we are able to offer a second in our Classic Series of teas that go beyond the usual flavor profile and terroir of our subscription series. By expanding the geography and the age of the trees for this Classic Series we are able to offer truly magnificent teas in limited quantities that unique and outstanding in quality. Old trees, very low yields and of course the extra care that is taken with these ancient leaves. Softer less astringent flavor notes, slightly more mellow with long finishes characterize the ancient tree offerings.
The simple surroundings belie the tea that will be served and infused with this water. An ancient tree’s tea will be casually served on a mat of reeds in southern Yunnan.
This current He Kai offering comes from trees that are well over 100 years in age with tap roots that shoot straight down into the soils of Bulang Mountain, dredging up the vital minerals and volatile elements that contribute to a deeper rounder drinking experience. We’ve the tea specifically shaped and sized into 200 gram cakes that are a nice compromise between our 100 gram offerings and the larger more standard 357 gram cakes that are common in Yunnan. Every stage of creating this tea is done entirely by the hands of masters and elders only. Every stage of production is done gently and in lesser quantities to ensure that there is no bruising of the leaves which sets off a chain of oxidization that in this case at least is not ideal.
A tea sourcing village and the meal that is customarily served before buying tea. Mayhem, and then great teas.
These exceptional leaves will unveil themselves over infusions and will display why the ancient teas . Old or ancient tree leaves can withstand more infusions but it is in the subtle flavours and hints that they truly unleash their textures and qualities. Harvested by the Dai minority within the ancient tree forests of Bulang Mountain, the leaves and cakes you will receive will contain a very high ratio of light end buds (lighter coloured smaller shoots in the cake itself).
He Kai is one of the teas that carries high amounts phytochemicals and volatile elements which all combine with tannins to fuse into a marvelous and wide flavor profile. A fantastic tea to enjoy now, it is also an ideal ageing tea as its strength is well known. Some teas we recommend consuming immediately (Jing Mai is an example) as they are milder to begin with and will only soften with time. He Kai isn’t one of these teas, instead carrying a deep vibrant flavor that will suit a moderating effect of time and a bit of ageing. It is also high in what many Asian drinkers call ‘chi’ or a kind of vital force referred to often by Taoists. This ‘force’ can be equated with the minerals, phytochemicals, and stimulants coming together in a powerful blend straight from the earth.
Our ancient tree offerings are done in small scale to ensure as much consistency as possible. Harvests are small scale and every single stage is done in small scale as well.
These leaves come from trees at 1200-1300 metres and are carefully chosen so as not to overly strip or overharvest any one tree. Over-harvesting is one of the great destructive banes of the ever-growing tea industry as it lessens the life of a tree or bush and obstructs the chemistry from the soil from fully transferring into the leaves. This region and indeed our entire goal at JalamTeas is to keep our approach entirely local and as small scale as we can manage. It not only encourages locals to see that there is a future in their ways, but it also maintains a consistent quality.
Withering the leaves, which is one of the great understated portions of making a great Puerh, is done in thin layers so there will not be any chance of souring. Souring is a grave issue for teas that are stacked or piled too high which creates a humidity level that can damage the final outcome severely. In the words of a tea master of Jeff’s (Mr. Gau), “A sour tea is the most miserable outcome possible”.
The vital withering process, which must be done in thin layers. Too thick and unwatched the leaves will start to compost and become too humid - something utterly destructive to a tea.
We highly recommend sipping this tea with a clean palate to enjoy its spectrum of flavours. Vegetal potency, along with wandering strains of floral tones makes He Kai a gem. This tea is particularly valued by Korean collectors for its layers and vital energy (called chi by many in the tea world).
This particular harvest is from Autumn 2015 so there has been an ideal amount of time to rest and develop. It is a tea ready for an immediate serving, or as mentioned earlier a great example of a tea that will age.
With the He Kai we encourage playing with the amounts of leaves used as it has power and some may find the recommended amounts too potent…while some may love the power it carries just fine. It is generally a very gentle strength as the older the tree’s leaves the smoother the tea on the digestive system. A great tea for first thing in the morning before any brushing of teeth or any food.
As with all of our teas - but particularly with this series - we welcome and would love comments on the Classic Series itself, and particularly on this present offering of He Kai.
- 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 He Kai ancient tree experience.
With our He Kai, we recommend trying lighter and stronger infusions (less time or more time, less leaves or slightly more leaves) as it is a tea high in ‘chi’ or vital force. A great tea for ageing as it carries strength and flavor that will moderate in time.
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.
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.