Dai women hand-wrapping small ‘tuo’ (balls) of shou tea at one of the many small tea processing plants near Menghai. The precious hands shouldn’t ever be far from production. Once machines have too much say in a final tea, many tea obsessed drinkers will say, the quality will slide. Picked by hand, fried by hand, dried by the sun, and formed by hand is the ideal.
With winter setting in for those of us in zones that ‘enjoy’ the dark months with a nip in the air we thought it time to offer up another Shou. Debate over raw naturally ageing Sheng and pile fermented ‘ripe’ Shou Puerhs will never dissipate but while we prefer the Shengs, there are many who like to tuck into the odd bit of dark nutty Shou Puerh.
Puerh leaves need to be of the big leaf Yunnan type, be grown, harvested, and produced in Yunnan and be a combination of sun and shade dried, say the tea experts. What happens after it is produced is then up to the market and the factories. A green Puerh can be easily converted into a ripe ‘Shou’, which sees its body, structure, and color all change.
To once again explain the difference (many within the tea community cannot properly identify what makes each of these versions of Puerh different), a raw Sheng Puerh is essentially a green tea that goes through a withering, frying, hand-rolling, and final dry stage using sun and shade. That is it! A Shou Puerh goes through the entire chronology of above, with the extra forced fermentation stage using microbes and bacteria to ‘enhance’ and change the spectrum of both the tea and specifically the flavor component. Loose green leaves are stacked or piled and sprayed with water and have a mixture of bacterial components added. Leaves are turned so that all leaves are equally exposed and left in this state for a couple of weeks or longer.
Good friend Marco, who travelled the tea regions with our tea procurer Jeff. Wandering through the hills, sipping and sampling they also served Yerba Matè from Marco’s native Brazil as kind of sharing of herb for tea in the Puerh regions.
Shou Puerhs are smoother and less acidic but have long suffered being doubted simply because their provenance, their source and their quality are much more difficult to discern because of their alterations.
Wherever and in whatever form it is served, tea should be clear and have a good gleam in the light.
This particular offering from us is from an area close to the famed Yiwu and Yibang mountains and has been harvested from a region of the Jinuo people. Harvested early in the summer of 2017 from bushes around 20-40 years old at around 1200 meters, the tea has a great balance that can easily be strengthened without getting even close to bitter or obnoxious. It's a great winter tea with more of the traditional qualities to ‘heat’ the body of darker teas in the leafy world of teas.
No matter how tea is served, it is often more important to feel the visceral effect of tea rather than worry too much about the minute details. Here a rampantly good chai is prepared in Nepal.
A driver in Nepal sits in a tea shop taking some quiet tea time.
The region lies to the east of the capital of Jinghong, which is the largest city in southern Yunnan’s Puerh sourcing regions.
We’ve said this before but if one were to mix a tea with something like dried flowers to other additions to change the flavor profile, this would be an ideal candidate as the solid smooth base will take additions reasonably well. Round in the mouth, low on acidity, and great after a meal, this Youle Shou is a tea that nicely straddles the in-betweens of the palate world.
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 Youle Shou 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 tinker with the below recommendations. This tea has some power and beautiful sharp notes. Try playing with slightly different infusion times as well as the amount of leaves to find the right feel…and that feel may vary depending on the drinker or the time of day. Some Shou’s need a little longer infusion time but by the third infusion, you should be into the ‘heart’ of the 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You have my ears and I will get back in touch with you.