On a journey with one of the last of the Tibetan medicine hunters in northwestern Yunnan Province, we set up camp and on every one of the 6 six days tea was prepared and consumed the moment we rested. Leaves were thrown into a kettle which was placed on the fire and the tea would stew into a potent liquid.
While we’ve sourced Purple Leaf Puerh before from the Naka and Meng Song regions, this is our first from the Bulang Mountains. This ‘purple’ (which is almost an indigo colouring) comes from the dark burgundy appearance that some leaves acquire when dealing with extreme sun or heat. The indigo-like colouring of the dried leaves is due to the flavonoid Anthocyanin which is both a pigment and antioxidant element, is one of the many contributing medicinal elements in tea.
Purple leaves appear as almost a dull indigo colour and release copper, apricot tones.
In the past harvesters would often simply add the leaves to regular green hued leaves, without worrying about appearances. Now, however, some communities pluck only the Purple leaves to offer them up as separate ‘teas’. Purple Leaf Puerh can be sourced from anywhere Puerh can be.
The Bulang people often prepare traditional dishes simply by boiling raw tea leaves and adding chilly peppers or pepper corns to the mixture.
This offering comes from 30-50- year-old bushes in the Bulang Mountains near the village of Lao Ma Er. Years, months, or weeks of high temperatures, loads of sun, and droughts have in part increased the availability of Purple Leaf teas. The Bulang people have long tended to make more astringent teas, enjoying some of the more bitter elements to cut some of the spice in local dishes and also to stimulate the physiological system.
Rolling the tea by hand and spreading out the leaves for drying in one of the many Bulang Mountain villages. In such villages tea is the only industry, so getting a reputation or name is vital.
From a flavor perspective, the joy of the Purple Leaf is that it straddles some of the classic raw (sheng) Puerh characteristics: fresh, astringent, vegetal, while also encompassing some unique flavor bandwidths: nuttiness and some hints of tannin strength and length in the mouth. It remains though, a smooth tea to consume.
Purple Leaf is generally a tea that has a great after-taste range that stays in the mouth for a while feeling at times like what is traditionally thought of as a ‘black’ or ‘red’ tea. Purple Leaf is generally better consumed ‘new’ or within a couple of years of harvest, depending on taste of course.
There has to be a bit of mayhem upon a good and functioning tea table.
Leaves when plucked can appear a deep burgundy colour or even almost blue black. The leaves go through an identical process to all Puerh. Picked withered, fried, further rolled, and then dried. When the leaves dry they appear dark indigo.
The Bulang are considered mountain people and much of their belief system is linked very strongly to the animistic world that is the backbone of the region. The ethnic upland people such as the Bulang, Lahu, and Wa view the forest as a place of deities, spirits and reverence, and their tea trees and bushes are viewed too with a kind of worship.
This Purple Leaf offering is a late-autumn harvest and is recommended for immediate consumption.
- 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 Purple Leaf 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.
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 8-10 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.