Ancients Are Smooth
Hani use tea, honey and many local herbs in their traditional medicines. Tea has long been used as an anti-inflammatory and coolant for fevers and build up of heat in the internal organs.
Naka has long held a bit of a spell over our tea purveyor Jeff. In his words, “It has always had force and strength like few other teas, but getting consistent production is like a crapshoot – you never know what you’re going to get with it. But that is part of the appeal I suppose”. This is an example of everything being right about a powerful tea.
This 2018 ancient tree Naka is another in our expanding Classic Collector Series and we feel an excellent place to begin a journey into ancient tree offerings.
Our Naka cakes arrived in a tradition ‘tong’ of seven cakes. These tongs use local ingenuity and local bamboo to protect, seal and decorate in a completely renewable tradition.
From one of the highest regions of Puerh production in all of Yunnan, Naka rests in the wider region of Meng Song, northwest of southern Yunnan’s capital of Jinghong. Superb high clay content soils and relative isolation combined with a name that isn’t associated with the ‘classics’ of the Puerh world, this offering is an old world classic that really isn’t well known.
Cultivated and harvested by the Hani people this offering is a rare offering from this area that traditionally is known for powerful teas. This Spring 2018 freshly caked Sheng (raw) is an example of an ‘bud heavy Puerh, and it is our favorite tea of the year thus far. Leaves from ancient trees have compacted softly into 200 gram cakes and carry a higher than normal amount of young end buds. These buds are found throughout the cake and add value (to those who collect tea), and more complex vegetal notes, as well as a higher antioxidant content. They keep the notes high and light, all the while remaining true to the force that Naka’s have traditionally had.
Staring down into a pan where newly harvested leaves get a gentle churning in a low heat pan. One of the key stages in the production of a Puerh.
The leaves have been harvested from ‘ancient trees’ well over a hundred years hold from forests close to 2000 metres, and are from the coveted Spring harvest of 2018. During the winter months, the leaves develop more slowly without being stressed or over-harvested. When Spring arrives and the leaves are harvested they are laden with minerals and plump with rest. Deeper root systems plunge into the soils to extract the elements which will in turn provide some of the flavor notes. They are, in the words of locals, “at their peak”.
Getting down to the ground where tea bushes and trees meet the soil. Contrary to the notion that many have of tea being a mono crop, within the indigenous regions the richness and diversity of the soil present a different way of viewing tea. It is a view that tea is but one of the vegetative element amongst many.
The difference generally between a tea tree or bush’s age, is that older trees and bushes introduce more of the notion of ‘soft power’ and complexity into a final offering. Though the hands that guide and process the leaves have an effect, the aged tree offerings are far more expansive and rich, offering up layers and sensations in the mouth that are absent from newer raw materials. This fresh Spring Naka offers up all that is beautiful in an ancient tree offering.
Your Naka as it was shipped.
The young buds have been hand picked and lightly withered in shallow layers, delicately pan fried using low heat and dried outdoors upon slightly shaded rattan mats. Every stage is done delicately and done in small batch sizes.
Ancient tree teas generally (when well produced) have what is variously known as ‘qi’, force, energy, or stimulant feel, while being much more gentle on the digestive track than younger offerings. Ancients are Smooth!
An old pan that has seen better days lies as a piece of discarded art along a street. Such pans used for pan frying teas, as all things do, have a limited life span.
We still prefer that our cakes are shipped in ‘tongs’ (bamboo wrapped packages of either 7 or 5 cakes each) keeping with the tradition of using local skills and local raw materials. During the centuries of the Tea Horse Road, cylinders, balls and bricks of Puerh were shipped within bamboo skin for protection against the elements and it still has value now.
Our Naka’s nectar is clear and peach coloured, and there is a wonderful ‘bud’ fragrance to the compressed cake and even the inner sheet of protective paper.
Enjoy the soft power of this Naka now or age it over time in a suitably dry and odor free zone away from spikes in temperature. It is, and will remain, a true classic.
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’ Naka Ancient Tree experience. Do not be afraid to tinker with the below recommendations. Try playing with slightly different infusion times as well as the amount of leaves to find the right feel and strength. It is often in this testing that only a small alteration hits the right note. This is a deceptively powerful leaf even though it has a high bud content. Increasing the infusion time or the amount of leaves used (or both) isn’t necessarily anything negative. Do try and sip with a clean palate to enjoy the soft elements in this Naka and we encourage you to try a sip first thing in the morning on an empty stomach when the palate is clean.
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 8 grams per serving, though 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. Use fully boiled water for infusing.
Look for that light second feel of the tea’s flavours at the top of the mouth and enjoy and look for the ‘qi’ factor that this tea carries with it.
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.