When we first started JalamTeas in 2011, Jeff sourced a Bada Mountain. Those that had tried it, kept reordering and keep asking us for more. Ever since this tea has become our flagship tea. This month, Jeff went back to Southwest Yunnan, sourced the latest harvest and updated his original description.
A tea master and producer of unfermented Puerhs takes a break beside his pride and joy. The gloves are worn to both protect from the intense heat of the tea fryer and to ensure that he doesn't 'soil', damage, or taint the tea leaves, as they are ultra sensitive to even the barest hint of impurity or odour.
With JalamTeas' Bada unfermented Puerh we’ve decided to take you right into one of tea's original, understated origins - southern Yunnan's Bada Mountain sanctuary. Long an area that inspires with its simple tea traditions and ideal climate, I think it a perfect place to continue the JalamTeas journey.
Freshly fried tea leaves are aerated to allow the heat to escape and for the leaves to be disentangled from one another as part of the annual spring harvest.
Tucked along the Burma border, the Bada Mountains are known for ancient smuggler routes, rich indigenous culture and some of the planet’s most exulted ancient tea forests. It has long been an area that I’ve visited and sourced from that in all of the years has changed little. It is a place where one can sit, sip, learn and sip some more, all within a sanctum of green. Locals only consume Bada teas in its unfermented version.
Paths that scurry through brush shoot upwards into the dense forests that are in many cases populated by ancient tea trees. Amid valleys of red soil and green foliage of Bada Mountain, small towns of the Hani and Pulang sit raised from the ground with little more inside the huts than beds and a fire-pit. Tea is an informal but vital item of everyday need. Little fuss is made over the serving of exceptional teas, but there is always tea to be served any time of day. One needs only a cup, water, green leaves and that one essential: a thirst.
It is without exaggeration one of the globe’s true tea origins, with the requisite culture and sense of adventure. Simply arriving to the region requires the dual prongs of patience and will. It is near the Bada Mountains that I had my first sip of potent green unferemented Puerh and became smitten with its vegetal bite. It is the understated and little known Bada that my taste buds inevitably come back to again and again and so it remains an informal flagship of sorts for JalamTeas.
Teas, freshly produced are lined up for a tasting. Often teas from a single area from similar trees at similar times - but produced by a different family member or villager - will have different characteristics. A good producer will know how to 'blend' to create something special and better than any single component...but ultimately tea remains something subjective.
The ancient Pulang people, who are regarded as the original tea growers and the Hani, who have picked up the mantle of tea harvesters work in tandem throughout the Bada region.
A footpath on Bada Mountain with 'young' 70-100 year old tea trees to the left of the pathway.
Pickers harvest our Bada between 1700-2000 metres by hand, clipping with a quick slit of a fingernail. From the fields and forests the leaves are dumped onto rattan and banana leaf ‘sheets’ to sit before being carefully dumped into frying woks. The leaves lose much of their mass and moisture within the pan frying process being kept in a continuous cycle of motion by vigilant hands and bamboo prongs. The leaves are then emptied onto another sheet and wrung and expunged of remaining moisture by hand rolling motion.
A fraction of their original size, the leaves are then set out to dry in the sun and then in the shade, acquiring that precious ‘sun smell’ that is so important for local buyers and drinkers. It is that simple, paying homage to a system that is at once traditional and honest to the tea’s inherent qualities.
An ancient tea tree, freshly pruned, shows its newly cut branches. Some tea sellers now invite their buyers to actually see and harvest their own teas from their very own tea forests as a way to ensure trust. The tea world has long been rife with fakes, charlatans, and pretenders.
Long used for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agents, green Puerh has been used as much for its medicinal abilities as it has to sate thirsts within southern Yunnan. While Bada Puerh can be consumed any time of day we recommend waiting 20 minutes after a meal so as not to bother the stomach with its astringency nor leech the body of precious minerals and vitamins.
Bada grabs the tongue with a flourish of vegetal edge, while finishing with an almost sweet tang. Harvested in Spring of 2013, our tea is an ideal and rare introduction into a true Puerh.
We hope you enjoy this harvest of Bada Mountain Puerh.
- 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’ Bada Unfermented Puerh 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. Fermented tea is generally far less intense in terms of stimulant effects so it acts as a great evening tea.
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 [email protected]. You have my ears and I will get back in touch with you.