Within the tea world, and particularly within the tea world of China the idea of a foodstuff having the ‘quality’ of bitterness, or ‘苦’ (‘ku’ or ‘bitterness’ in Chinese) is something a little strange to many in the west. In the world of Puerh teas, the region of Bulang Mountain has villages that favour a little bitterness in their tea.
Lao Ma E village is a Bulang village stronghold and the teas from the region have always had the reputation for carrying some bite. In Chinese food science and traditional medicine this quality of ‘ku’ is something to be sought after rather than avoided. Unlike the flavours of sweetness or sourness and saltiness, bitterness seems to be something more subjective. Foodstuffs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that contain ‘ku’ are generally thought to be good for the heart and soothing to the nervous system as well as containing anti-bacterial compounds.
When sampling teas, it is almost a given that the tea will be served from white ceramic gai-wans or flared cups with a lid. In this way the tea’s colours can be seen, the leaves can be studied and smelled and the amounts of tea are consistent in temperature and in infusion strength.
This Shou offering from Lao Ma E has been softened with the pile fermentation process which takes place after green leaves have been harvested, dried and rolled. Rather than simply ‘oxidizing’, the fermentation process that affects the leaves is deliberately encouraged and enhanced with the addition of microbes and bacteria. Many call the process ‘post fermented’ because the leaves are dried first and then the additional process of deliberately encouraging a fermentation is added as an extra step.
Freshly harvested leaves during a natural and brief withering period. This period is finished by a fry, which fixes many of the elements within the leaves that give it flavour.
This current Lao Ma E was harvested late in the summer of 2016 from gardens of around 1400 metres in the Bulang Mountains surrounding Lao Ma E. Shou Puerh’s are great teas for when the stomach is empty as they are less astringent than their green ‘raw’ (Sheng) forms. First thing in the morning or even later in the evening as this present offering is ideal as it does not generally carry so much stimulant punch.
Hands are still inextricably linked to the leaves. Picked, sorted, fried and finally formed, Puerh leaves need the human touch.
A decade ago, the road to Lao Ma E during much of the year would be impassable due to mud and potential landslides. Dirt tracts that required 4x4’s eventually have given way to semi-paved roads as the tea worlds palates became more and more interested in actually visiting the source of many of the teas.
A tea forest in southern Yunnan where trees, bushes and a dozen other greens grow in a kind of bio-dynamic harmony.
We recommend keeping your Puerh (all Puerh) in a cool dry area that does not have any heavy spices or scents, including must or dampness. Unlike many other teas like Darjeelings, Oolongs and Greens, Puerh needs aeration and oxygen to develop and mature so don’t keep in air-tight containers. (Read more about Jeff's storage tips here.)
Multiple teas and vessels at the ready during a tea tasting session where a range of teas are taken and compared…and then selected or not.
Enjoy our Lao Ma E Shou….and if you feel compelled, add a little flavor to it like dried flowers, or herbs. This Shou will take to the additions beautifully.
- 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 Lao Ma E Sheng experience.
If this is your first tea cake, here is a step-by-step guide on how to break and prepare a tea cake.
Do not be afraid to make a stronger brew than you might be accustomed to. Shou’s generally are lighter and can handle longer times to increase the punch. Use fully boiled water.
We recommend not less than 6 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You have my ears and I will get back in touch with you.