A Hani elder hand weaves a tea basket that will be used to collect tea leaves. In many tea villages elders say, “no day can begin without tea”.
Mengsong is - like so many of the regions that produce great teas – not simple to get to. It is one of the more powerful teas that we offer and we thought it would be nice to bring it back, albeit in a different vintage. Located north of the ‘highway’ connecting the capital of southern Yunnan, Jing Hong with Menghai, it is still a challenge accessing the village during the rainy months of summer.
Hands at work with the killing of the green, the fry. It is here that the leaves will have their moisture removed which is one of the vital stages of tea production.
A high altitude bastion of great teas, Mengsong can claim to be one of southern Yunnan’s highest altitude tea growing regions. The Hani (known in Laos, Thailand and Burma as the Akha) proudly claim their 2400 metre heights create slower developing teas that are deeper and more powerful in flavor. Power is a descriptive for many of the Mengsong teas and this helps them become great ageing teas due to the fact that their strength carries through into age as a complexity and breath.
Loose leaf tea ready for steaming and forming into cakes and bricks in one of the many little tea factories within Menghai.
Ancient tea trees, medium age bushes and trees and newly planted young bushes (known as ‘tai di’) weave their way through the mountains and surrounding hills. The local Hani cultivators are in many cases directly related to their nearby Hani brethren on Nannuo Mountain across the highway. In these regions there is as much talk about the colour of the soil and clay as there is about the tea itself.
Jalamteas’ very own tea cakes sit on drying racks. The tea cakes below are still within their cloth constraints having just been pressed.
Red and orange clay is common and is seen as one of the cardinal ‘essentials’ for outstanding Puerhs. Mengsong has been kept relatively ‘quiet’ while Puerh buyers opt for Nannuo Mountain, Ban Zhang, or Yiwu leaves which has only made our procurer Jeff more adamant that this tea gets a fair offering.
Dai women (among the most fastidious of the tea processors) at work near Menghai.
Jeff regards this tea as an ‘afternoon blast’ and rates it high for after meal slumps or for a simple jolt of energy.
Picked from bushes approximately 50 years old from altitudes of between 1700-1800 metres this is regarded as a true high-altitude offering from JalamTeas.
The ‘blocks’ which are placed on top of steamed tea cakes to compact and ‘form’ the actual cakes. Pressing can be done by machine or by hand.
One of the charming aspects of Mengsong and other similarly ‘un-famous’ tea bastions is that there is little or no recorded or documented history of tea so exact ages of villages, tea trees, and traditions is something of a bit of guesswork.
This is an autumn 2014 offering so already it is over a year since the leaves were harvested. The tea is at an ideal time for immediate consumption though again, because of its power can afford even more time to ‘settle’. We encourage you to play with this tea in terms of infusion times and amounts of tea.
- 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 Mengsong 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, keeping in mind that the Mengsong teas generally have some power.
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. Using more rather than less will in some cases bring the lighter Pulang flavours into the mouth more quickly.
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.