Mists shroud young tea trees and bushes in a forest of tea that more than suggests at a complete bio-dynamic environment where the old (and negative) stereotype of tea being a mono-crop is laid to waste.
Back to our regular monthly subscription service with a Zhang Lang Sheng, one of our perennial favorites for an autumn offering. This present example is a summer 2017 harvest from bushes between 1400-1700 metres which benefit from high altitudes and remote sources…away from much of what adversely affects teas: namely, man’s intrusive sprays and pollutants. While isolation, humidity, drainage and altitude cannot ‘make’ a good final tea, they can provide a stunning raw material. The hands are still needed and so is time but the raw material end of things certainly helps.
A tea table in Menghai where the pouring and sipping action takes place each and every day….as it should.
Healthy soils and a healthy atmosphere contribute so very much to the dna and base of tea. In parts of Japan right now, the infamous ‘yellow mists’ of China’s industry has at times blown across the channel and settled upon the leaves of tea plants and bushes. Environment, like it does everywhere, is one of the defining elements of a tea’s final sip.
Along a portion of the Tea Horse Road near Yiwu, where tribute teas were shipped to Emperors and the Himalayas alike.
The Hani of Zhang Lang village and the surrounds have a long history of tea cultivation with some of the nearby ancient tree forests providing a kind of origin of origins for the stimulant leaf. Swaths of mountainsides are covered by ancient tree forests that live in close proximity to medicines and herbs, hinting that tea isn’t simply a monoculture crop, as many argue it is. Grown alongside other vegetation with mosses coating its bark, tea plants and trees here grow in weaving lines of chaos rather than in any straight lines of curated consideration.
Mao Cha or loose leaves that will contribute to a “yellow envelope” offering where there aren’t so many buds present as there are old larger leaves. The result is a thicker and more malty flavour profile.
In such environments tea is part of a grander fabric of life interspersed with other herbs and vegetation; part of a collective whole rather than simply a cash crop.
Different leaf shapes of different cultivars of Puerh, which contribute different flavour profiles and character to the end cup of tea.
Our tea procurer, Jeff, with a mouthful.
Though there is debate about the basic storage of Puerh, we recommend open storage (no air tight containers or zip locks) so that oxygen can do what it needs to do with Puerh: develop and ‘age’ it. Dry areas away from kitchens and workshops and away from any taints and odors is best. While an air tight container will prevent other scents from infiltrating the tea, it will also prevent the leaves from evolving with time, which is one of the ‘magic’ components of Puerh.
Slight malt hints along with the very Zhang Lang characteristic of carrying vegetal wafts to the forefront of the mouth, particularly in the 3-5 infusions, this offering is a tea that can easily rest for a few months or even years.
- 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 Sheng 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. A classic bit of vegetal flavor that has softened slightly and broadened in its profile with the 3+ years of ageing, it remains a classic. 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. We suggest too, that you consume that first infusion. It carries beautiful flavors.
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. If you enjoy trying to flush as much of the leaves’ nectar out, great but if you prefer having fewer more potent infusions this also works.
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.