For the feared Khampa nomads of eastern Tibet and northwestern Yunnan province, there were few commodities or luxuries more exhilarating than their beloved Ja (tea). So vital, caravans would often employ them as guardians for the tea caravan and in return proffer up extra tributes of tea to the guardian’s clans as a form of tip.
Part of our New Year’s plan for 2017 is to offer up a few more Shou or ‘ripe’ Puerhs as many our sippers have requested a more balanced combination of ripe and raw teas.
Meng Hun lies west of Meng Hai and “Meng” in the local Dai language refers to ‘place’. The Dai of southern Yunnan are the dominant minority and their ethnic cousins spread wide into Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Lahu, Bulang and Hani peoples also occupy the region, though they are considered mountain peoples. Long ago the Dai took over most of the fertile valleys making the ‘lowlands’ their own. Close to the famed Bulang Mountains of Puerh fame in Yunnan’s southwest, it is a rampant zone of agricultural bounty because of the soil quality and that applies to the tea as well, which sits above the valleys.
Looking under the leaves of a tea bush or tree can reveal much about the soil, the actual age of the bush and of the biomass that is helping (or hindering) the plant.
Shou teas are generally consumed less in the Puerh growing regions than the raw Sheng form that locals prefer. Shou teas are considered better for later in the day or for those who have sensitive digestive tracts. Often friends will gather at tea shops after a dinner of the famed Yunnan ‘sour-spice’ foods and local alcohols to sip Shou teas because of their slightly less stimulant punch. Those with digestive issues frequently turn to Shou teas as well as the teas lose much of their vegetal strength.
Throughout Yunnan, Myanmar, and India, local indigenous have carved out pathways through the tea fields and gardens accessing hard to reach sections and other communities.
A local tradition in southern Yunnan’s tea growing regions is for tea shop owners to keep jars of the local mountain honey available nearby. A spoon of honey will be taken when the amounts of tea stimulants running around in the blood system get too high. The sugar content brings the ‘high’ down a notch or two and allows drinkers to continue slurping away.
This current offering of Meng Hun comes from bushes that are between 20-40 years’ old, at 1200-1300 metres. These bushes line the slopes and valleys leading up into the Bulang Mountains in southwestern Yunnan.
Even in the most remote corners of the tea zones, access to fresh water is vital. If one has leaves, heat, and water, one is fine. One of the continuing issues, however, in much of India and Myanmar in particular are the supremely low wages that tea harvesters earn, even though their teas can command huge prices.
Lahu and Hani harvesters have plucked these leaves during the late winter months of 2015. A subdued liquor that pours clear, the Meng Hun Shou is a great tea for anytime but particularly during the winter months. As it ages, it will soften slightly in its flavor range and balance out. This tea in its present form is already super smooth so we suggest enjoying this Meng Hun immediately.
Throughout the tea regions, indigenous have long had a relationship with tea, either by forceful movement (Ceylon and parts of India) or by natural proximity such as in much of southwestern Yunnan.
Storage of Puerh is vital, as teas can and will pick up any trace scents, odours, or musts that are within reach. Cool, dry rooms away from the kitchen or damp basements are recommended unless one doesn’t mind a bit of ‘tang’. Puerh storage needs a space that gets air flowing through it unlike Darjeeling’s, Wulong’s, and other green teas that have a shelf life that is diminished by exposure to oxygen. Many ripe Shou Puerhs have a damp earth quality which is deliberate and acquired by storing the formed cakes and leaves in caves or cellars and like so much in the tea world, this is a question of individual taste.
Having mentioned honey up above, this tea once cooled slightly can be consumed with a touch of honey for those inclined, though we prefer it on its own.
- 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' Zhu Ling Shou 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 will darken quickly with the infusions but many prefer this tea a little stronger in flavor. 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.