Category Archives: Making Puer tea

Wan Gong and Bai Cha Yuan

HM has been recently spending a fair bit of time going up to Wan Gong where we found a little tea last year, and Bai Cha Yuan . Our hope this year is to build on last year and make some more tea from a couple of tea gardens up there.

Old tea tree around Wan Gong

Old tea trees that were cut back and then left untended

The trees in the photo are typical of a fair number of the trees in this remote area near Bai Cha Yuan – they are maybe about 200 years old but were cut back heavily many years ago and have subsequently been left untended for a long time.

HM and some tea farmers from the area have built a small makeshift ‘pondoki’ where we will make tea, as it is much too far from any more permanent tea making facilities.

A rough shelter on the mountain

A makeshift shelter

We have improvised two small woks for frying tea.

Two makeshift woks for frying tea in the field

A rather splendid view from near the top of the mountain.

A view from near the top of the mountain

A view from near the top of the mountain

2012 Lao Ban Zhang

Yesterday we received our first little bit of 2012 Lao Ban Zhang. A few kilos, brought in by our friend from Menghun.

lao ban zhang 2012 mao cha

Lao Ban Zhang 2012 mao cha

Quite nicely made, and with a very ‘chun’ – unadulterated, pure flavour. It seems like it could have used a little more drying time perhaps. The kuwei is pronounced, the huigan a little slow, materialising after a couple of minutes, but pleasing enough when it does show itself.

Lao Ban Zhang Mao Cha from early 2012

Mao cha and gaiwan

It has that slight smokiness which disappears after the first couple of steepings and that I’ve almost come to expect of Lao Ban Zhang. As someone said to me a couple of years ago, “If it’s not smokey, it’s not Lao Ban Zhang.”

It’s just been made, so we’ll give it a little time.

2012 Lao Ban Zhang mao cha broth after four steepings

Lao Ban Zhang mao cha broth after four steepings

 

The leaves after four steepings look pretty good. A nice eveness to their appearance

2012 First Spring Tea

We recently started to get some samples of this year’s tea. A handful here and a kilo there. It’s still early. We had three samples of Lao Ban Zhang. One of them was not bad except there was a hint of ‘new wok’ in the flavour.

Peng Zhe from Xishuangbanna Tea Association also brought in some samples he had got from Liu Da Cha Shan area. One was also rather pleasant. Here’s a picture the aftermath of some late evening sampling.

Tea dregs from 2012 early spring tea sampling

We were also debating the rule of thumb, that one ought not to sample more than 3 teas in a day, but we pretty much all conceded that during Spring there is no way to abide by such logic – often sampling many more teas a day.

Tea Heads

We’ve recently been going to Nan Chun Tea Factory in Menghai to get some work done. One day while we were there, HM discovered that they had previously made som ‘cha tou‘ or tea heads. This is basically a large ball – 1 or 2 kg – of tea. H.M managed to convince Nan Chun Cha Chang’s lao ban to personally make some cha tou out of some Nan Nuo Shan mao cha that we had left from this spring.

The weighed tea is steamed in the usual way and emptied into a cloth bag.

The tea is then rolled,

puerh tea heads getting a roll

hammered,

making cha tou

and squeezed

detail of making tea head using puerh mao cha

into a near spherical shape

nan chun cha chang lao ban with tea head

Nan Chun Tea Factory, Peng Lao Ban with a ‘tea head’

What you end up with is a pretty dense ball of tea – it could certainly do some damage if thrown in the wrong direction. (You’ve heard of Gunpowder tea – this is cannonball tea)

It has to be dried in a low temperature oven because, despite all the beating and squeezing, the moisture content in the centre is still relatively high so normal air drying would run the risk of the centre of the thing going mouldy.

The end result is rather pleasing – a solid lump of tea!

 

Make Tea According to What You See (More on wilting)

The expression in Chinese  ‘kan cha, zuo cha‘ is saying ‘Make tea according to what you find, according to the situation.’ or as my grandfather used to say “Conditions determine.”

In light of some recent online discussion on withering tea, I thought it worth revistiting the topic here.

The debate centers around a couple of issues; Why are some Sheng  ‘greener’ than others. The second issue is the supposition that the degree of ‘green-ness’ in a young Sheng Puer is determined largely by the length of time that the fresh leaves are withered.

This is a fair assumption, but it’s a partial reality. Wilt time, as previously said, will have some affect on the flavour and appearance of tea, but so also will the provenance, the type of trees, the season, the method and degree of drying and also the method of drying the pressed cakes. Last but not least, how long the mao cha is stored for prior to pressing, and where the tea is subsequently stored will also impact the teas flavour and appearance.

Two most common reasons that a Sheng Puer will seem more ‘green tea’ like are these:

Shaqing/frying temeperature: a higher temperature (say 90 + C) will do this.

The tea  isn’t sun-dried and the temperature of drying is a little high.

Habits vary in different areas, and from season to season. Some farmers do not wilt at all, others wilt in the spring but much less in autumn. Wilting may be done for 40 minutes or for a few hours.

Kan cha, zuo cha‘ – A farmer is less looking at his watch than looking at the tea, feeling it, smelling it in order to decide when to start each step of the process – from picking to drying.

As teas from different regions and different farmers vary, so do ours. What works well for one tea, may not work well for another. No two teas are made exactly the same. What we strive for is to produce quality teas from different regions that maintain their uniqueness.