Within the Tibetan regions, ‘la’do’s’ (muleteers) would usher caravans of tea and salt throughout southwest China and into Tibet. These muleteers and their relatives still recall where the striating little pathways lie that led to the greater Tea Horse Road. Tea has in its day been everything from an herb medicine, to a panacea, to a tribute to present to threatening neighbours. This photo was taken near Shangri-la (Zhongdian) in northwestern Yunnan province near the border with Tibet.
Man Mai village rests within the greater Bulang Mountain region of southern Yunnan Province and we’ve decided to start referring specifically to the village because its character is distinct from other Bulang’s that we’ve sourced. It is a region that JalamTeas has consistently returned to for great harvests.
Great vegetal character with good strength and a wonderful consistency year after year, Man Mai teas along with other Bulang Mountain area teas have become a kind of standard by which other Puerhs are measured.
In the ‘sheds’ where harvesters, producers, and locals can gather for food (homemade sausage hangs in the top right corner), gossip and a simple sit down.
This present offering is an Autumn 2016 offering from gardens that range from 1500-1600 meters in altitude, and from bushes between 30-50 years. The region is known for loads of humidity and the altitudes ensure that they temperatures do not rise too high. Great drainage from the slopes, isolated mountain corridors, and quality at every stage of production make this one of our faves and a classic.
A tea seed hangs on a branch. Tea leaves, flowers and seeds are used for everything from great teas to tea oil, to medicine.
Leaves are hand harvested, piled and withered in piles that are 1-2 inches thick (too thick and the leaves will sour), pan fried in batches that remove moisture and humidity, then aerated and rolled by hand to expunge still more of the moisture (also to give the leaves a slight curled appearance)….then the leaves are dried on woven trays both in shade and in sunlight. In Yunnan there are specific guidelines and ‘rules’ that apply to Puerh. They are in no particular order: a) should be grown, harvested and produced in Yunnan, b) should be the Yunnan big-leaf varietal, c) should be a combination of shade and sun dried with a ‘taste of the sun’.
Walking through tea forests of particular gardens requires a local chaperon to guide, explain…and simply ensure one doesn’t make off with a kg or 5 of tea leaves.
From the standpoint of process and flavor, big-leaf teas produced identically in Myanmar and Laos are very similar and might be entirely indistinguishable from a Puerh produced in Yunnan province but there is a push on in Yunnan to distinguish what qualifies as a ‘Puerh’. This push is to protect Yunnan growers in much the same way Darjeeling growers are trying to cut down on what qualifies as a Darjeeling (many Nepal-grown teas are excellent, but technically not a Darjeeling, though they are marketed as such and sold for the predictably high prices). So, while many excellent teas grown and produced in Myanmar are produced and marketed as Puerh (secretly or obviously), authorities are trying to regulate what can be called a Puerh and legislate the industry.
A Dai woman’s hands work through a stage of creating tea wrapping paper from mulberry fiber…a traditional (and anti-bacterial) substance for tea cakes, bricks, and balls.
Freshly tilled and hoed soil surrounding a tea bus. In many places, tea is grown in the permaculture tradition of being amidst a forest of other species of plants cohabitation, but in others, it is the ‘monoculture’ bad boy method of being the singular plant.
Many of the Dai of the Bulang region have friends and relatives across the border in nearby Thailand and Laos, but are able to produce and sell teas in far greater numbers at higher prices.
We recommend storing your Man Mai Sheng Puerh in a dry area where odors and other smells aren’t likely to infect. Humidity and strong scents are the enemies of Puerh, which requires aeration and open spaces. Keep the Puerh out of air-tight containers.
- 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 Man Mai 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. The tea can use some extra leaves or time to strengthen the infusion. Bada is a tea that continually opens up infusion after infusion. If needing a less intense brew either lessen the amount of leaves or cut back on infusion times. 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.