Fire, water, a kettle and some leaves sum up what is still vital to many of the Himalayan peoples. Here a clay stove, using dung as fuel fires up the kettle. Tea time is all the time.
Part of the greater Bada Mountain area, Manmai tea is specific (as is each harvest that is cultivated within a specific area and produced by specific families) to the village and its immediate surrounds and has long been one of the standouts in the entire region. Manmai village’s tea fields and forests are some of the most ideal tea growth areas simply because of the relative isolation and distance from pollutants, larger towns and also the tea interests who encourage over production. One of the great ills of the tea world is the quota system, by which large tea companies dictate a certain minimum seasonal and annual yield. What this does is put immediate pressure upon the growers, who are usually small family run affairs. Harvest size increases, the trees and bushes suffer and ultimately teas themselves are produced in a more manic way, with quality dipping. Throughout the south of Yunnan, this system has taken hold, so that finding genuine small village teas becomes an adventure but not a certainty.
Nothing is better than firing up 3 or 4 different teas simultaneously and doing a taste comparison.
Manmai, like many traditional tea growing villages, has been relatively successful at making enough income based on excellent small harvests, so that it doesn’t have to ‘sell its tea soul’ to survive.
The vital fry where withering leaves forcibly have their moisture content removed. It is a process that is done almost exclusively by those who are masters simply because the frying stage is so important to the final product.
Humidity and the relatively intense landscapes have kept the region around Manmai clean, natural, and the fact that the locals haven’t over harvested means that the soils retain their precious minerals and rich value.
Pathways of bamboo in Xishuangbanna provide wonderful gateways to the zones higher up, which themselves offer up the tea zones.
We’ve offered teas from this region and town before in both raw and ripe form (green or ‘black) and in fact Bada is one of the original inspirations for us as it was the first ‘classic’ tea that JalamTeas ever offered. It remains a favourite too of our procurer Jeff who annually purchases 5 kg’s for his own consumption (albeit from older trees, which in time we hope to offer).
This particular harvest is a 2015 Summer harvest and because of the relatively high altitudes (1600-1700 metres) and cool temperatures, it is great quality. Manmai in general produces excellent teas regardless of the season.
These terraced teas differ from their arboreal ‘forest’ teas in that they are carefully tended and regularly pruned to keep them in a kind of uniform order. Many tea fields in Yunnan that grow Puerh are everything but neat and orderly.
Puerhs from this region have strength while also containing the wonderful bittersweet tones that Puerhs should have. This latest offering is from 40- 60 year old bushes harvested by the local Hani inhabitants and offer up enough strength that it is advised to not consume this particular tea on an empty stomach.
It is however a stunning tea to age, away from the kitchen, and other scents, smells, or fragrances. Puerhs need oxygen (to develop and age) so avoid air-tight containers when storing. Enjoy one of our favorites.
- 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 Manmai tea experience.
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, and we again promote some experimentation with times and amounts of dry leaves.
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.