A Tibetan of western Sichuan province. For the Tibetans salt, tea, wool, and high mountain medicines were the most coveted items of trade. “Ja” or tea to the Tibetans was more than a foodstuff, it was a panacea and item of inestimable value along the Tea Horse Road.
This region and its teas were discovered by Jeff on one of his treks over the Bulang Mountains in southern Yunnan in 2008 which involved more time being entirely lost than not. Lying along the very cusp of Laos, Burma, and Yunnan it is a green zone where mountains are not quite mountains but rather dense sub-tropical hills that keep ascending into the heights.
The area is a basin of culture and indigenous knowledge with smuggling routes and hidden river-ways adding to the layers. Tea is also something inundating the forests and tea culture and cultivation goes back centuries.
The root of a tea bush digs straight down seeking minerals rather than splaying wide and shallow. The heavy clay content of southern Yunnan is an ideal place for tea to find such minerals.
Both the Dai and the Hani (along with Lahu and Bulang) people inhabit the area making it a wondrous world of cultural fusion. Many say that the Dai were the first to export tea within bamboo cylinders whereas the Hani benefited from being one of the first of the minorities to make use of Han technical methods to produce consistent teas. The tradition of these two minorities and a world of green unpolluted goodness and relative humidity have made for an ideal tea-zone.
A first infusion releases the bubbles that is often referred to as the bitter froth. While some discard the first infusion many simply sip down the first infusion refusing to waste any of a great tea.
Our Menglong tea has a slight nutty flavor that is kept interesting by young leaves, which tend to bring more layers to a tea. Jeff recommends slightly longer infusion times with this tea and letting it sit a little longer than normal to allow the temperature to drop. Taking the tea at this temperature sometimes allows a more full appreciation of what a tea’s full flavor spectrum is. With the teas of this region having come ‘in from the forests’, and having some of its ‘edges’ subdued it has allowed a wider audience and understanding for these teas.
It is often neglected to mention how vital tea was to the diet of the isolated nomads of the Himalayas. Tea provided an element to break down the fats that the nomads took in with their diet of dairy and yak meet. Here in Ladakh where Yunnan and Sichuan teas made it to, tea is still one of the musts in the daily ritual.
The leaves have been plucked from relatively young bushes of 25-40 years old and have in the 8 months since creation had time to nicely mellow. The region has a tradition of adding medicinal elements to the tea to enhance and cure. Peppercorns, corn, herbs, opium, garlic, barley, chilly peppers, and even orange blossoms have all found their way into local tea remedies and ritual offerings.
For the indigenous of southern Yunnan, Burma, and Laos tea is something to blend with other items. Using herbs, spices, and plants, tea’s inherent strengths are enhanced. Everything from hemp to garlic, peanuts to peppercorns are added.
Our JalamTeas’ Menglong has been collected and created from an Autumn 2014 harvest from bushes that reside from 1200-1300 metres. This tea will also be good served cold or room temperature and is an ideal choice for creating ‘sun tea’; letting a glass jar of it sit in the sun for a few hours. Locals sometimes add buckwheat honey (produced locally) to a room temperature brew to give the oxidized tea some added complexity and medicinal charge.
- 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 Menglong tea experience.
When Puerh teas ‘age’ their colour deepens and becomes slightly less vegetal, but they will ‘feel’ stronger. We suggest trying to find a taste (and not necessarily a ‘colour’) that suits the palate, but encourage a little experimentation with allowing the tea to cool before consumption.
Use fully boiled water, as the large leaf 'Camellia Sinensis Assamica' (Puerh) can handle the heat.
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; 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You have my ears and I will get back in touch with you.