An ancient muleteer from near Shangri-La (Jeff's home) whose town contributed many to the trade routes hauling tea across the top of the world. Journeys could take up to a half of year and take in thousands of kilometres in their voyages to get Yunnan teas into some of the most isolated communities on the planet.
JalamTeas returns to our roots in more than one way with our latest fermented or ‘cooked’ offering: Zhang Lang: another town and another tea that gets precious little notice simply because so few actually have heard of - or consumed – it. We’ve previously offered the unfermented version to great responses and Jeff thought that because of Zhang Lang’s strength and twangs of vegetal complexes, that it would lend itself nicely to the slightly softening abilities of the fermentation process.
Zhang Lang is a small region near the Bada Mountains of southern Yunnan that has long produced great and slightly sweet unfermented Puerhs. It is another tea that rarely makes it out of the region that produces it, and Jeff has long wanted to put it out there on the tea radar of drinkers. This fermented version is a good winter warming tea being both mild and almost nutty, with very little of the earthy mustiness that many fermented Puerhs carry.
Banana and palm leaves were often used to store and transport Puerh teas from southern Yunnan. It is a tradition that was practical and environmental but sadly has been discontinued.
Zhang Lang is a tea with a great fragrance and what locals call ‘lots of activity’, which means that it is an active tea that challenges the mouth with sweet and slight bitter tangs that combine. Harvested from medium tea trees (30-70 years old), by the ancient Pu or Pulang people it is an excellent tea to age due to the tradition of the Pulang to create teas with strength and true character.
Medium aged tea trees almost always produce teas with slightly more astringency and bite than their more ancient relatives. In the case of the Zhang Lang this quality actually assists adding some power to the inherent sweetness of the Zhang Lang leaves.
Another vital element of tea's journey and transport, the yak. Mules, yak, sheep, and human transporters all helped get commodities into the mighty Himalayas. It was often said amongst the Himalayan peoples that tea was a more lasting item than even a son.
As with so many of the teas and tea regions that JalamTeas sources and seeks out, to actually get to area is in itself an adventure. The leaves of our Zhang Lang are harvested from a zone between 1700 and 1900 metres and it is a great mid- afternoon tea to revive with its unique fragrance and impact on the gums.
Precious hands, hand sort tea on Pulang Mountain. Tea has long been one of the most labour intensive crops but it is the very relationship between hands and tea that make the teas such a human consumable.
Picked in March of 2012, our Zhang Lang unfermented Puerh has had a year to ‘establish’ its own character. This is the identical batch of tea leaves that we used in our unfermented offering and we think its nice to be able compare and truly get to know a Puerh tea. The Pulang people put aside teas 16 months or so before consuming to allow the dried leaves to develop and fix their character. The slightly red earth of the Zhang Lang area is noted for its rich nutrient content which provides an ideal home for tea’s deep roots.
Jeff (left) with one of his many tea cowboy friends deep in the Pulang mountains. Sourcing tea is still as much about people as it is about the tea itself.
Jeff is a huge fan of the Pulang people’s teas as they are traditionally quite simple and direct when consumed and produced. Their teas have always had great raw materials from which to begin, and over time the methods of production and attention to detail have only improved.
Enjoy our latest Zhang Lang offering from the deep south of Yunnan from one of the great traditional bastions of Puerh tea growth.
- 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 Zhang Lang tea experience. When Puerh teas ‘age’ their colour deepens and becomes slightly less vegetal, but they will ‘feel’ stronger. We suggest trying to find a taste (and not necessarily a ‘colour’) that suits the palate.
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. Using more rather than less will in some cases bring the lighter Zhang Lang flavours into the mouth more quickly. More mild than its unfermented cousin, this tannin flavoured offering can handle some potency.
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.