Tea Drunk is turning THREE YEARS old! It’s been a special journey for us, and we would like to make it special for our tea friends as well!
For this month’s Tea Club, instead of continuing our themed tea education, we would like to share with our subscribers some teas that are enjoyable and memorable. We would like to include a completely handmade Huang Ya from this Spring, an outstanding Wu Yi (Cliff Tea) Shui Xian, and a Pu Er cake for you to keep and savor over time.
Back in April, we featured yellow teas, however this particular batch is indeed special as we continue to improve the making techniques while following traditional methods. Making Huang Ya is usually a 4-5 persons job with two-three persons manning the wok (and Shunan was one of the wok persons!). One person stands by the first charcoal baking tray and the last person does the second baking. The tea is then “yellowed” for 48-72 hours, baked again, and “yellowed” again for 24 hours. Then it is finished with the signature Zhuang Huo step, an old flash roasting method over charcoal bonfire, to give the tea an enhanced aroma. 4 pounds of tea takes at least three days of continuous harvesting and making, with an additional one to two weeks of passive making to complete a batch.
As we commission our tea, we always start with surveying the lots first. This year we decided to make a wild tea from trees that have been abandoned for over a decade under a bamboo shade. And a non-wild batch is from a lot that is less than 500 meters away and is also under a bamboo shade. The combined result of terroir and crafting is an exceptional yellow tea that is savory, pristine, warm with a subtle sweet corn note. The most renowned Shang Zhi Peng village of Jin Ji Shan is very small, only 10 households. This year’s Huang Ya is a Tea Drunk exclusive.
Wu Yi Shui Xian
This 2015 Shui Xian is picked from tall groves of 40-60 year old range. Even though it is worthy for Pu Er to boast 200-600 year old trees, over 30 year old Wu Long trees are equally impressive. We commissioned a batch from a Zheng Yan (true cliff) lot that is behind the famous Tian Xin Yong Le Temple, right before Jiu Long Ke (Nine Dragon Pit). The batch was crafted by the Ying family, this year’s winner of the Yan Cha competition in the Shui Xian category. While the finished tea embodies Shui Xian’s signature soft but weighty metallic mouthfeel, older groves give the finished tea a highly prized mossy note. However, to retain the mossy note, the tea could not be roasted too high, giving it a more floral character.
Wu Liang Shan
Wu Liang Shan is geologically a large part of all Pu Er mountains when referring to the Wu Liang Shan Range. in tea terms, Wu Liang Shan is referring to a region that is in the jurisdiction of Jing Dong, central north of Yun Nan. Jing Dong is notorious for being the hub of the largest production of Tai Di Cha (plantation tea), however, the region still remains home to a lot of remarkably old tea trees. When having the right access, Wu Liang Shan can have the best value for Pu Er, because its market value is way below comparable-age trees from other regions. This special cake is from Cai Fu village, which is the last village before the National Reserve, with tea trees practically in a forest. Refreshing and well balanced with slight nutty notes when young, Wu Liang Shan can age to a prominent dry apricot sweetness.
Man Nuo is a Pu Er mountain that is so small, it was left out during the initial “discovery” of the Six New Ancient Mountains. It was not until recently that Man Nuo started being recognized as an independent tea mountain with its distinct flavor profiles and characters. Now one of the famous 15 Pu Er mountains, Man Nuo saw its first dramatic price jump in 2015 when its extraordinary aging potential became evident.
Man Nuo can be seemingly dull at its birth, because its most signature character is being extremely neutral. However, within a year, a well made Man Nuo can have a greatly enhanced mouthfeel. Its weighty, gravitating texture actually makes its lack of aroma a much-preferred distinction that adds to its solid grounded character. Man Nuo is not a personality tea, it is a character tea.