A fresh batch of tea leaves lies withering after having just been plucked. Tea will wither before being taken into the tea fryers.
The region of He Kai is located on the northern foothills of the Bulang Mountain Range. It is an area that is entirely made up of minorities who’ve long cultivated and created teas. This tea is one that has long been either ‘amazing’ or a disappointment for Jeff. At its best, Jeff once remarked, “This tea could be one of those stunners that one could sip back every day for the rest of days”.
Though most of the small tea growing villages of Bulang Mountain now use the 'gai wan' or flared cup for serving, there was a time not so very long ago that leaves were simply thrown into a vessel and consumed.
Red clay earth, superb humidity and drainage, and not so much sun have long provided ideal surroundings for tea to thrive. The Lahu people have long been one of the lesser-known minority groups in the area and their teas have long been collected by others to produce outside of the region because of inconsistent production. Now the Lahu have benefited from being ‘tutored’ by the nearby Hani people, and their teas have reached level of predictable strength. They now cultivate, harvest and produce their own teas and Jeff’s expectations have been sated.
He Kai lies west and south of Menghai in southern Yunnan province near the fabled ‘Ban Zhang’ area of consistently high quality teas (and stupendous prices). Teas from in and around the Bulang Mountain region have a long fabled history and now command huge interest and the expected prices.
A rooftop near He Kai, where green items of every shape and colour thrive in the humid heat.
Our He Kai unfermented tea is known for an underlying strength that is broad rather than sharp. Many locals describe a slight malty flavour and the region is known for an abundance of wild orchids. During some seasonal harvests, buyers of He Kai comment that there is a hint of the orchid flavour in the tea as orchids often fuse onto the tea bushes and trees.
An ancient tea tree forest in He Kai. The region has ancient trees, middle aged bushes, and new bushes all within a few acres blending into one wider zone.
Whether this is the case, the He Kai has strength and makes a potent and comforting tea for the ‘now’, and a great tea for ageing as it will diffuse in strength over months and years. It is an excellent ‘multiple’ infusion tea and locals have a saying about He Kai: “If one wants to drink one tea and only has a few leaves, He Hai is the tea to choose”.
There must always be a time to finally sit down and sample...and sample some more. .
It is one of Jeff’s faves for this year and like so many that he likes, Jeff considers it a kind of ‘hidden gem’ that is little known outside of the tea bastions. The leaves are from tea bushes that are anywhere from 20-30 years old and have been harvested from bushes at around 1200 metres.
A note about colour in teas. Colour seldom has anything to do with a teas’ innate stimulant ability. Darker coloured teas simply bring bitterness usually due to long infusion times. Caffeine or theine in teas are simply a couple of elements that contribute to ‘stimulant’ effect of a tea. There are hundreds of compounds within fresh unsprayed teas that are simply produced.
- 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 experience.
He Kai really comes to life after 3 infusions and has a broad strength from start to finish with good colour. A tea’s colour has little to do with its stimulant ability, as some of the most stimulant-laden teas are light in colour. Enjoy the He Kai’s strength.
Use fully boiled water.
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 using a 250 ml container to prepare the teas. Jeff recommends 8-10 grams for all of our JalamTeas’ offerings. 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.