A young woman fries tea leaves in Yiwu, keeping up a continuous motion and ensuring that the leaves do not burn or become tainted by resting too long on the pan.
Yiwu is for many the most significant of the 6 ancient tea mountains of Puerh so we thought we’d finally offer a tea from that region near the Mekong River in southern Yunnan province, near Laos in southwestern China. Long a bastion of tea tributes for government officials and emperors, Yiwu remains a sought after source of Puerhs. We at JalamTeas only offer this tea because our sourcing maven Jeff is finally satisfied that we were able to get some genuine Yiwu as there is much counterfeit in Yiwu teas simply because of its popularity. It’s important to try the teas that are both known and relatively unknown, though Jeff is notorious for trying to bring lesser known teas into the tasting arena.
Yiwu teas were 'travellers' as they were constantly being taken along tea caravans on journeys throughout ancient China and beyond. This, a portion of the Tea Horse Road in northwestern Yunnan, along which our tea procurer, Jeff, travelled along for his book.
Yiwu gets a lot of credit in the tea world traditionally but as always, it is important to find teas that suit your palate and often a tea will develop with time as it ages.
It is important to note that in the world of tea, a name is only a name unless one can trace the tea back through a simple process back to the origin directly through a farmer or a trusted contact. We now have that vital link so feel able to at last put our soft-flavoured Yiwu up for consumption, sips, and comments.
Dry leaves in bowls ready for their sampling.
Subtleties and generally soft flavours are what Yiwu unfermented teas are known for which is one of the reasons it is known as the ‘Queen’ of Puerhs. Traditionally the tea was known as a tea that was rarely bitter or astringent (depending of course on preparation).
An actual tea sampling session. Leaves are seen, studied, smelled, and only then is a tea actually sipped from a cup.
Our Yiwu tea is harvested by Hani, Han, and Yi peoples from tea bushes that are between 40-60 years of age, and this is a Summer 2013 harvest. While Spring flushes are considered the ideal tea, the summer teas are often (because of heat and temperature increases) slightly stronger in the mouth. We thought this a nice balance considering the already mellow tones of Yiwu tea generally.
Flavours in a tea are down to the earth, the processing and also the range of leaves within a given amount of tea. Within our small cakes of Yiwu unfermented there are the smaller yet to unfurl buds and top leaves that give a tea some of the soft floral tones, while the larger leaves (just as essential) impart some heavier and deeper flavours.
So much of Puerh's history is about the tea and its great journeys. Puerhs from southern Yunnan have been the great traveller teas being taken onto the Tibetan Plateau, up into the Mongolian steppes, and to the great Han Chinese capitals. This a portion of the Tea Horse Road in northern Yunnan province.
Never a huge fan of overly complicated tea names, titles or ‘novella’ length descriptions, Jeff repeats his mantra of knowing a tea’s raw material, terroir, and producer, otherwise in his words “tea is nothing more than some leaves that could light up the mouth or simply flop”. And so, our Yiwu is simply called Yiwu, paying tribute to the great tea region.
With the Yiwu we recommend sampling and sipping in the morning, or mid-afternoon when the palate is reasonably ‘clean’ and untainted with heavy flavours, or spice. It will allow a fuller spectrum enjoyment of this relatively mild Puerh. Despite its mellow tones, we think this will be a tea that ages wonderfully.
- 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 Wiwutea experience.
Do not be afraid to make a stronger brew than you might be accustomed to. The tea will darken quickly with the infusions but it is worth trying this tea ‘stronger’…so says Jeff. The Yiwu is a mellow tea so a little longer infusion time would help. Recommend trying to increase infusion times by 50%.
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. 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.