The Tea named for a Snow Pass
Soil quality, mineral content and drainage contribute to a tea that is a superb example of a tea that is deep flavoured and ideal for ageing.
Our November offering is the Sho La Sheng. A raw Puerh from near the village of Meng Ngoi in the He Kai area of Bulang Mountain. The name comes from the famed 4800-metre mountain pass that is the first of the snow passes along the 1500 km Yunnan-Lhasa portion of the Tea Horse Road. Sitting in northwestern Yunnan the successful ascent and crossing of the pass for many was the equivalent of wiping one’s past sins clear. It also marks the unofficial entry from the province of Yunnan into Tibet and for centuries the pass saw commodities hauled up and over its edges and snows.
The simplicity and understated aspect of tea in southern Yunnan Province often takes people by surprise. Excellent teas are often served in cheap pots alongside tremendous meals with little or no fanfare regarding the source, the age of the tree or the serving vessel.
Trade caravans hauling tea, salt, leather, copper, and wool would need to travel the pass on their way onto the Tibetan Plateau. Stones along the pathway are shorn down into smooth rounded welts from centuries of hoof travel from mules and horses.
When sampling, multiple vessels stand at the ready often being used simultaneously to sip teas side by side.
Harvested from ‘old’ tea trees (approximately 100 years) at 1300-1400 metres, the region boasts many more well known tea regions and teas than even a decade ago. The Bulang Mountain region is home to many of the original tea cultivating people. The Dai, Lahu, Hani, Bulang, and Wa all populate the surrounding mountains and are all connected to tea. In the He Kai area the Lahu, Dai and Hani people dominate the tea landscape, but this present offering has been cultivated and harvested by Hani people.
Tea eggs, which sit at simmer for days. Tannins from the tea (not teas we offer you) stain both the shell and the egg whites within and impart a distinctly tea taste to the eggs.
Long full notes that touch on floral strength imbue this tea and make it an ideal ageing tea. As it is an early summer 2019 harvest, the tea is fresh and full of the vegetal strength that many (including our procurer, Jeff) prefer. This particular tea though is also a great candidate for ageing for a year (or three) because of its strength which will only get more nuanced with time. The beautiful mineral rich soils’ tangs are revealed also with time, as the more complex notes only become more pronounced with age.
A Dai woman outside of Menghai returns from harvesting a single sack of tea leaves. She will process them herself and use this particular tea only for within her home.
Like many great Puerhs this is a tea that opens up and reveals more of itself with successive infusions. Many locals believe that rich soils make complex teas and that complexity only starts to unveil around the third infusion, and that (depending who one speaks to) a tea like this current offering needs at least 18-months to ‘settle’.
Tea leaves splayed in a traditional ‘broom’ shape for sale in a local market, in a traditional display that was once more common than it is now.
We’re sticking to our mantra though, that this ‘fresh’ Sheng Puerh is ready right now to start dabbling in at the very least. Yes, it will evolve and start to expand its flavour notes and mineral concentrations but for those of us (and some of you) who enjoy those first bursts of fresh vegetal terroir from a new tea, this is something special.
For ageing we recommend, as we always do, to focus on ‘dry’ storage. In a cool dry space away from odours, spices, or musk and in some kind of an open container that allows it to breath. Humidity, odours, fragrance and air tight containers are all to be avoided. Enjoy this November selection.
Play and tinker with infusion times with our Sho La Sheng and play with the leaf amounts. This Sheng does not necessarily require a first rinse, though this is always at the discretion of the server and drinker. Our procurer Jeff loves to take old tree Sheng’s first infusions down, particularly when he knows that the teas have been well produced. Loads of depth with a hint of floral and more than a hint of strength in this selection from the He Kai region of Bulang Mountain. A great tea to experiment with as with successive infusions it opens up.
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 with 8-12 recommended. Shorter infusion times with more leaves are the way in southern Yunnan’s Puerh cultivating regions and we’re in agreement that philosophy. Fully boiled good quality water is highly recommended
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