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Collector Offering Spring 2016 - We’re continuing in our JalamTeas expansion by following up with another Collector Tea offering to broaden the tea experience in a limited quantity (only 24 cakes). Last December we introduced our first limited edition Collector offering and it sold out in less than 24 hours. We’ve now sourced another special offering that is available outside our regular subscription tea club. Jeff has selected a leaf that has been part of a base of teas that he’s been enjoying for years. We thought it would be a great offering not simply because it gives Jeff pleasure but because the story behind the tea is consistent with why we are involved with the leaves. Produced in one of the most fabled of all Puerh producing lands, the Bulang Mountains, this offering of He Kai Sheng Puerh is a powerful and utterly potent example of what an ancient tree (gu shu) tea can be when cultivated with care and produced with an exceptional touch. Each phase of producing this tea is done with the utmost attention to detail. Deliberate and gentle plucking, precise piling depth and time of withering leaves and that absolute vital: a low consistent heat for the frying by a master. Within this He Kai you’ll notice a high percentage of end buds which appear a lighter colour and provide much of the antioxidant and subtle profile for the tea.
He Kai has long been a favourite of Koreans who enjoy the smooth strength and the fact that this tea has the ability to be enjoyed now as a fresh offering or as a tea to age indefinitely. This is an autumn 2015 harvest and while many drinkers will insist that Spring harvests are best, Jeff often finds exceptional teas that are summer or autumnal harvests. What is vital (and in abundance in this He Kai) is the raw materials and the attention to detail in the production. The forest from which this tea lies in a zone that is treated almost as a sacred site by locals. He Kai is sometimes described as a tea that has been “naturally flavoured” by wild orchids which have long fused onto the trunks and branches of the tea trees but whether or not it is in fact the orchids or simply the significant tap roots of the old trees that draw up minerals and moisture from the soils is not certain. What is certain is that ancient tree teas are often ‘cut’ (mixed with younger bush/tree leaves) and exaggerated. Sourcing genuine ancient tree teas involves going to the source and working with the same villages and people for years. It is another of the vital aspects that makes ancient tree offerings so special.
Ancient tree offerings are notable for long finishes, successive infusions that continue to open up layers of flavours and vitally, the ability to be taken on an empty stomach without acidic effects. This is true regardless with a new harvest or older harvest. This He Kai offering will have had time to open up since its harvest and is entirely ready for consumption. Jeff recommends taking this tea with a clean palate so that the layers and minute waves can be enjoyed. This is not a tea for after a meal when spices, and other agents (even wonderful ones) remain on the palate.
If consumed first thing in the morning please enjoy before you brush your teeth. It is one of Jeff’s peeves that one will brush the teeth and then prepare and consume a superb and delicate masterpiece with all of the chemistry of a toothpaste still overwhelming the palate. As far as a flavour profile for the He Kai, it remains a smooth powerful tea that offers plenty of width with a hint of something mildly floral in the mouth and a superb finish.
It is a limited edition, meaning simply that Jeff has ordered a specific and small quantity of leaves that he is sure make the grade. We’ve now got just under 24 cakes in hand pressed 200 gram cakes make specifically for Jalamteas in Menghai city.
While this is an autumn 2015 harvest, the leaves were only recently compressed into cakes. Wishing you some very special sips of this classic that rarely makes it out of Yunnan Province. As always we welcome comments of all kinds about our second offering of Collector Teas. Discover this He Kai tea even further with Jeff.
Tasting Notes - Teas from the region are known for their general strength and long finishes in the mouth. He Kai has been a favourite of many Koreans who enjoy the fact that it is a tea both for the now and to age in time. The added age of the tree adds to the smooth aspects and make this an ideal tea for first thing in the morning. Less astringent than its younger bush or tree cousins, it is a stimulant tonic that remains gentle for first thing before eating and particularly before brushing teeth.