An expedition along a portion of the Tea Horse Road led by Jeff Fuchs in Yunnan Province. In was along such pathways that teas travelled and 'aged'. Teas would darken and oxidize over the course of journeys due to the temperature changes of the mules' bodies, the changes in altitudes and time itself. Tea would be thus transported for up to 5 months, changing in character.
While Yiwu (our previous month’s tea selection) gets much international acclaim, nearby Yi Bang teas go largely unnoticed…at least outside of Yunnan’s tea obsessed south. Jeff is inevitably a fan of teas that haven’t had to change due to a rising demand. Yi Bang teas were, like their nearby cousins in Yiwu, used as tribute teas for emperors, heads of state, and local warlords. The rich forests, superb soil, and consistent dedication of local tea mavens made for (and still do make for) some great quality - but slightly less known – Puerhs. Still now, within the Yi Bang municipality in southern Yunnan, there are large plots of old growth tea trees.
The southern indigenous groups have many recipes of tea preparation including simply boiling the tea leaves and storing them in bamboo trunks to 'age.
Our Yi Bang unfermented Puerh comes from an area of much repute. In the past Yi Bang teas’ quality could be attested to simply because many tried (and succeeded) in passing off Yi Bang tea off as Yiwu tea. The ancient tea caravan routes and portions of the great Tea Horse Road passed through the area of Yi Bang and ruins remain still in the dense green underbrush. Jeff spent much time retracing and searching for these routes and while there became a fan of the Yi Bang.
Our Yi Bang tea has a smooth beginning and finish and rarely has any bitter bursts to offer up the mouth. It is a great digestive tea and one that can be consumed first thing in the morning with or after a meal as a mild and easy way to gently bring in the day.
By contrast the Tibetans boil the dried tea leaves for hours often creating a stew of sorts using salt, butter and barley powder to add later.
While many tea buyers, merchants and sippers prefer Spring harvests, autumn and summer harvests offer up a different flavour range. Locals (Jeff’s inevitable go-to on opinions and information) often lament the fact that autumnal harvests are rarely acknowledged as great teas. Jeff sampled both a summer and autumn harvest and decided on the autumnal batch simply because it “was more interesting” and that a local grower was such a passionate advocate of the tea.
No tale is complete without the 'transporters of teas' who risked everything to make sure that tea did make onto and over the Tibetan Plateau. Here one of those remaining tea traders near Nixi in northwestern Yunnan province.
This tea has had time to ‘age’ and spread out and is an ideal tea to consume now or in the coming months.
Harvested by Hani and Han Chinese tea cultivators and pickers from trees that are from 20-40 years old at an altitude of between 800-1200 metres, it is a relatively ‘low’ altitude tea.
In Asia and China specifically, Puerhs are sometimes served with dried Chrysanthemum flowers and used to ‘cool’ the body while providing the kidneys and liver a soothing tonic.
- 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 Yi Bang experience.
Do not be afraid to make a stronger brew than you might be accustomed to. The tea will darken quickly with the successive infusions and adding a little more time with each infusion is suggested. The Yi Bang unfermented Puerh is generally a mellow tea so a little longer infusion time can help.
Use fully boiled water.
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 using a 250 ml container to prepare the teas. Jeff recommends 8-10 grams for all of our JalamTeas’ offerings. 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.