2016 has been a very peculiar year for the tea regions of Yunnan. Earlier this year it snowed at some of the high peaks of Nan Nuo Shan. What is usually a quiet area was jammed with traffic from people coming from nearby areas to see snow for what was for most, the first time. As a result of the frost, the Pu Ers budded but didn't grow. After the tea buds the farmers need to wait for it to reach a certain size before they can pick it; this year, it took a very long time to get to that point.
When Shunan arrived in Yunnan at what is usually the beginning of the tea season, she found most of the trees blooming late and not ready to harvest. Usually the old trees at Nan Nuo Shan are ready to be picked on March 7th, but this year by the 24th the tea still wasn't ready
There are general patterns to the order of which trees are plucked and when. When talking about the regions, Menghai picks first, then Wu Liang Shan, then Meng La (the 6 ancient mountains). Within each location there are general seasons depending on the type of tree. Plantation tea is the first to be picked, then converted trees, then small trees, with old trees picked last. When picking tea the later the better. While you usually want the first bud, the later that bud sprouts in the season the more desirable it is.
(Besides being cute, the dog can
act as a reference for the size of the truck)
Did you know you can tell if a tea is honest by when it is available in the market?
By taking into account the type of tea it is and where it is from, we can determine that the tea is available much too early to be authentic. For example, old tree Pu Er from Menghai was picked in the last week. After a Pu Er is picked it still needs to be sorted and in some cases pressed, although true pressing is done in December. Taking all the factors into account, we realize that true old tree Pu Er will not be available for sometime.
See the footage for Shunan trip to Yunnan here.