A Lahu harvester's foot atop a well stained rattan woven matt atop which freshly drying leaves rest near Meng Hun.
Here, we’ve decided to include a bit of what Jeff inevitably refers to as a ‘sleeper’ in the tea world. Stumbled upon by accident, this latest tea was sampled, enjoyed and sampled again a year later, and here it is. Meng Hun is a valley region southwest of Menghai occupied by the Pulang, Dai, Lahu and Hani peoples. It is on the way to the famed Pulang (Bulang) Mountains further south. For years Jeff has passed through without really sampling teas until a few years ago when, invited by friends from the region, he decided it was time to sample the local leaves. While all of the teas sampled varied due to producers, procedures, and weather, there was this particular tea harvested by the Lahu people, slightly above the Menghun Valley that stayed with the palate. Jeff returned twice more in subsequent visits and each time, the resulting teas impressed and so we at JalamTeas were convinced that this was a tea to share.
Towns in the region around Meng Hun literally are built around, or, are surrounded by tea trees, bushes, and shrubs. It is nothing less than an entire geography of tea.
The region of Meng Hun is known for significant orange and red clay deposits in the soil and this has long been considered prime earth to grow some of the most prized Puerhs in Yunnan. Meng Hun teas though, are hardly if ever heard of, simply because of the nearby ‘classic’ and more fabled names taking centre stage: Bang Pun, Ban Zhang, and He Kai amongst others.
Part of what Jeff searches for isn’t necessarily consistent flavours but rather teas that have potential and a kind of ability to take the palate on a slightly fun ride while still being a quality made tea with good raw materials. This Meng Hun has those qualities. A mild tea that grows a bit and develops with each infusion, it is a tea whose tones come with some powerful vegetal blasts of the famed soil. There is a strength with each sip in part due to the fact that this tea – like much in the Pulang Mountains – is sun dried for significant amounts of time compared to some.
A Hani elder stokes a fire on the floor. The Hani, along with the Lahu and the Dai people make up the majority of the indigenous population of the Meng Hun corridor, sitting below the Pulang Mountains.
Harvested by the Lahu indigenous group at altitudes around 1200 metres this tea has an interesting mix of young buds and lesser amounts of older leaves, so the flavour range is an extensive one. Until recently teas produced by the Lahu people could be completely unpredictable due to inconsistent production methods. This is far from a bad thing for Jeff, as it often creates ‘one-off’ teas that exist for one season and are gone, which makes them a special experience.
No tea purchasing, sampling, or just visiting to the towns is complete without numerous, and very local, meals.
While many in the west throw descriptions of tea around that verge on being obtuse, locals describe this tea’s character as “Flower green with strength”. Much of the surrounding hills are covered in orchids.
The trees and bushes range from 40-80 years old for this Meng Hun selection and we hope you enjoy this little treat from the Lahu people. One note about the cakes you receive. Puerh teas need oxygen and aeration to develop so please try to keep the cakes in a relatively well-ventilated place, not affected by spice or other odours, fragrances or foods.
- 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 Meng Hun experience.
This tea has lots of character and subtleties that come through as the leaves open up. The Meng Hun tea can handle multiple infusions and is a joy to observe what changes in the hints. 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.