An elderly Hani laboriously sorts through leaves, stems, dust and all sorts of goodies near Zhu Ling village on Nannuo Mountain. Without the precious hands that create and usher the leaves along the teas mean little other than a simple commodity.
When a mountain can provide such consistent leaves and production value it is worth exploring further. Nan Nuo Mountain is such a place with its dozens of tea producing villages, hectares of new bushes and forests of old growth tea trees. This latest batch of tea is from near Zhu Ling Old Village, which rests further up and into the mountain than its newer incarnation.
Fire starts up for tea in a simple kitchen in southern Yunnan.
The region is made up of almost entirely Hani people and over the course of the past decades, younger generations have moved down closer to roads which have been built up to facilitate tea and access. Often in the area there will be an ‘original’ home- stead further up and away in the mists and green and a newer village of the children of the previous generation nearer to the roads and civilization. It has been generally acknowledged that the better teas are to be found in remote locations.
Time for a sip is most times of day and night.
Our present offering is a tea of the ‘middle’ in many ways. Harvested further up, and then fried and dried further down, the dried leaves were then transported to a small factory in nearby Menghai to be formed into discs which now rest in front of you.
An ancient woman recalls days along the Tea Horse Road and the days when tea was caravanned by mule and man.
Nannuo over the course of the last ten years has become a region where more and more large tea companies are buying up entire harvests, or ‘renting’ all of the land and tea of a specified region. In such a way they can label their teas “Nan Nuo Mountain”. While this has been good for local growers, and raised Nan Nuo’s profile amongst Puerh lovers, it has also taken some of the control away from locals which sometimes creates a break in the long line of traditions of the local people and their precious green stimulant.
A physical strand of the Tea Horse Road in northwestern Yunnan Province.
Walking through some of the Nan Nuo forests now, one can see signs with the names of tea companies who have essentially payed for the right to use some of the ancient tree’s leaves for their own offerings. Generally, families or villages will convene together with a headman and decide if the price is right and if it is a fare offer. For many the sums of money involved are far more than they could muster and the benefit to them is that all they need provide is the raw materials. Outsiders then bring in the equipment and set up shop, affording the indigenous a better lifestyle and – usually – more consistent teas. Our procurer Jeff often feels a tug of slight regret at this new way. On one hand he loves the fact that the locals have more and that teas are generally more consistent, but on the other he laments when there were more “wildcat” teas that were one offs and brilliant. He selfishly misses too, the quiet mountains and villages that were once simple and quiet little affairs and where the tea was either utterly undrinkable or stunning.
Young tea bushes kept pruned and close to the soil are easy to harvest but will not command high prices.
Our present Nan Nuo Sheng (raw) offering is from 40-60 year old bushes from fields and angled gardens at 1300 meters. The young bushes can find their parents and grandparents only dozens of meters away.
- 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 Nan Nuo 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You have my ears and I will get back in touch with you.