This is one of our first of our new ‘Old Tree’ offerings that we’re going to be putting out there for our subscription series. We’ve long wanted to have Spring offerings of old or ancient trees on offer for our monthly subscribers and this is a gentle beginning of that. The present offering is from old trees (approximately 100 years old) and from a Spring 2018 harvest from a region long famed for the big leaf Yunnan Puerh family.
Bud heavy teas are easily identifiable by the lighter coloured leaves and buds within the cake. Peering into a cake one can see if the bud content is consistent, or if it is simply on the surface. Making buds ‘visible’ on the surface is a method used at times to convince a buyer that the precious buds are in fact present. Once opening a cake though, it is clear what the bud status really is.
Older trees give the basis for a generally softer but longer set of notes with far more layers than a younger bush. These trees are part of a set of entire forests which have never been sprayed or fertilized. The clay heavy soils of the region with their tell tale orange and reddish tones contribute much in the way of mineral content and ultimate flavours. We’ve long offered medium aged bushes from the region and now with this present He Kai it gives an opportunity to offer up the same raw materials and soil type, within a far more complex and robust tea. The older teas are ‘milder’ and less astringent or bitter than their younger cousins.
Within much of the Asia world, tea is always on offer in the home. Whether it be complex Gong Fu set up or a simple kettle atop a stove in a nomad’s tent. It is the welcoming fluid.
The He Kai region encompasses not simply a plot of land but rather a series of villages that dot an entire north-facing section of the greater Bulang Mountain range. The area is known for forests that are rich in medicinal herbs and voracious parasitic (and beautiful) orchids. Locals often refer to the region as the ‘hills of orchid” and many of the old tea trees have the telltale vines of orchids fused on to branches.
This Spring offering comes from plots of forest that are approximately 1500 metres high near the village of Man Ngoi. Lahu, Hani, and Dai people all occupy the region, though the Hani and Lahu are more common as the Dai are more common in the valleys. In the case of this tea, it is a cooperative effort. Lahu and Hani harvest the leaves from the trees and the Dai produce the leaves.
Bush tea differs from leaves harvested from older trees in that they are generally more bitter. Older trees’ leaves, while sometimes carrying astringency, generally are smoother and deeper in flavour needing some time to soften.
Spring teas are almost always the most coveted, as their leaves have developed more slowly over the cooler winter season. Though not necessarily superior, the prices and desire for such Spring harvests are higher in almost every region that produces tea.
Break open your cake and you will see a slightly heavier light colored bud count. These end buds contribute subtle floral notes as well as much of the vegetal bite. The larger, darker leaves give a baseline strength from which the lighter buds can contribute more of the soils’ real essence.
These ancient tea trees are part of the greater forest region from which this present He Kai offering is from.
We’re delighted to offer this old tree He Kai offering up just in time for the crazy season. This tea carries some serious strength and energy so do play with the infusion times based on the below guidelines. This tea will give you considerably more infusions than its medium age bushes so there is some serious sipping to be done. Enjoy this old tree offering.
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 Old Tree experience.
If this is your first tea cake, here is a step-by-step guide on how to break and prepare a tea cake.
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 tea has some legs and some power but carries this power in a subtle carrier. It also will carry some ‘qi’ (energy that goes far beyond simple caffeine energy) factor. Do try and sip with a clean palate to enjoy the depth and layers of this He Kai.
We recommend not less than 8 grams per serving; ideally 8 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.
Look for that light second wave of the tea’s flavours at the top of the mouth and enjoy the third and fourth infusions when this tea really starts to unleash itself into the cup.
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.