Yunnan Big Leaf Zheng Shan
Green Puer Cake 2005
The tea from Lin Chang has full bodied flavor and good aftertaste, while the feature of Xi Shang Ban Na mao cha is sweet and moderate. This green puer cake is aged to black rapidly, which is good for storage.
Out of stock
- Tea Origin
- Lin Chang (west Yunnan), De Hong and Xi Shuang Ban Na (south Yunnan)
- Tea Bush
- Large leaf tea trees
- Tea Master
- Hu Hao Ming
- Harvest Time
- Picking Standard
- 4-6 grade mao cha with 1st grade buds
The mao cha for our Yunnan Big Leaf Zheng Shan green puer cakes is a blend of mao cha from Lin Cang, in the west of Yunnan and De Hong and Xi Shuang Ban Na, in the south of Yunnan — all of which are old-line tea producing areas. The tea from Lin Cang has full bodied flavor and good aftertaste, while the feature of Xi Shang Ban Na mao cha is sweet and moderate. The prominent character of this cake is that its all of these mao cha are considered “Zheng Shan,” meaning they were grown on the east side of the mountain where the tea bushes are in direct sunlight every morning. This soft morning sunlight encourages the bushes to grow with greater concentrations tea polyphenols, giving their leaves a full bodied taste. The mao cha used in this blend are size-graded between 4-6 with 1st grade buds. This green cake has a light yellow liquor and faint fragrance, but a robust taste, which makes it an excellent candidate for those who prefer strong mouth feel, clear taste and lingering aroma.
Pu’er City government did research for the puer tea market, and found that there are less than 4% of green puer cakes that come from ancient tea trees (100 years or older). Tea trees are passed down generation to generation by minority families who live in villages deep in the forest. These groups have been living in the mountains for thousands of years, hiding from war and city life. These people experience very challenging living conditions, constantly fighting disease. The ancestors of these groups discovered that tea is one of the useful ingredients that can be consumed as medicine. They use it very medicinally, chewing or grinding the tea leaves to relieve bites and stings. Tea can help keep them healthy from the dangerous conditions of living in the woods. The Bulang people treat tea as their totem. If you visit their village, on the top of their roofs are wood carvings of large tea leaves, 1 bud: 2 leaves. These farmers own and look after the ancient tea trees. They don’t have the technology to ferment their tea into black puer. They will only sell loose green puer to producers, which normally is called “mao cha.” Producers and other buyers will most often compress the mao cha into cakes and sell it on the market, rather than selling it loose. Some tea farmers have the skills to compress tea into cakes in their village, but very few can do this.
Tea trees can be picked from the end of February or early March until the end of December. Tea farmers will climb the mountains and check their tea trees every day. Once they begin to grow 1 bud:1 leaf, it is time to start picking. Most tea farmers like to pick 1 bud: 2 leaves. Just like tea bushes, the main branch of the tree will grow tea buds before the small branches do. Tea pickers have to climb up the trees to pick from the very top, which can grow up to over three meters tall. In the old days, they would cut the tallest branch down and let older people and young children pick as well. Pickers come back a few days later to pick the smaller branches new growths. It usually takes about 15 days for the branches to grow more leaves. Note that since 2008, Yunnan has been experiencing a drought. The same leaves that would take about 15 days to regrow, now can take up to a month to replenish. The drought was originally just affecting the young tea bushes in Yunnan, but has now extended to the trees decreasing in quantity. Everywhere in Yunnan is experiencing it, and poses a big problem for the tea industry.
Tea pickers wear hats to shade themselves from the very hot temperatures. They collect fresh tea leaves in large bamboo carriers that rest on their backs. Once they are finished picking, they carry the leaves back to the factory. The leaves are piled together and left under the sunshine for a couple hours to remove some of the moisture naturally. A large, deep wok is used to fry the fresh leaves. These woks are not as hot as the ones that are used for hand making green teas. This allows enzymes to remain in the leaves. Puer tea has a lot more enzymes left than other teas, but it is unclear exactly how much more they contain. Once the leaves are fried, they are very soft and withered. A small broom made from local weeds is used to sweep the tea leaves from the wok on to a large bamboo tray. The leaves are kneaded by hand, which is the traditional way of making tea. Puer is not kneaded with a machine, instead are twisted and rolled by hand into their shape. During the kneading, a lot of moisture is released from the tea. Squeezing out the tea juice can help reduce bitterness in the processed tea. The leaves are thinly spread on to large bamboo trays and dried under the sunshine for 3-4 days, depending on the weather. The weather in Yunnan changes often, so some farmers have built sunrooms that still allow sunshine to continue drying the leaves. If the leaves are rained on, they will become moistened and create mold. Tea masters must be very attentive to supervise the process to make good tea. After the drying process, the twigs and unfolded leaves are sorted out of the tea. The whole twisted leaves are put into fabric bags and stored for buyers. Some farmers will compress cakes themselves, but not everyone has the skills and factory to do so.
To compress puer into cakes, the tea is weighed with a scale. The traditional weight was 357 grams, but now many factories use 400 grams. A piece of cotton fabric is placed inside a special 1 foot deep tin bucket that has holes on the bottom. The weighed, dry tea leaves are placed inside the fabric, enough to almost fill the bucket. The leaves are steamed for about 3-5 seconds at first. They place a one inch square paper that is stamped with the company’s logo on top of the cake, with a few leaves covering the sign. The next person sits in front of the steamer, and after about 5 seconds they will remove the fabric and wet leaves from the bucket. The dry tea leaves are transformed from being very puffy to a condensed 3 inches thick. The next person will quickly tie the fabric, making a knot at the end. They compress the knot into the center of the cake under a compression machine. It takes the perfect amount of pressure to push the wet tea leaves tightly into about a 1 inch thick cake. If you look on the back of a puer cake, you will see the indentation from the fabric knot. Some producers still use the traditional way of compressing cakes. Two stone molds, that are curved to match the shape of puer cakes, are used to flatten the cakes. Someone will stand on top of the mold and evenly shake their body to mold the cake into its shape. Factories that use this method will have one worker whose job is to compress these cakes. They must be a specific weight as to not over compress the cakes. The best cakes will have every leaf stuck together. They are not too loose, but are still easy to remove chunks of tea from them. The minor amounts of space will allow air to move through and naturally ferment the cake over years. After a few hours, the wet cakes are removed from the fabric and placed on wooden shelves. The cakes slowly dry for a few hours at a temperature of about 40 degrees celsius. Once the tea is dry, the cakes are sent to the packaging room. A skilled tea worker will use cotton paper to quickly wrap the cakes. They will fold the squares of cotton paper so there are exactly sixteen wrinkles. Clean, dry bamboo shells wrap 7 cakes together at once. Bamboo string is used to tie the shells together to secure them for transportation. This is the traditional packing method that is still often used. The bamboo shell will cover the tea from rain, but will also allow the tea to breathe. Bamboo is a very neutral scent, and will separate other scents from reaching the tea.
No chemical fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide was used in the production of this tea. Click here to read more about our promise to fair trade and the environment.
Yunnan Big Leaf Zheng Shan brewing guidelines
Weight per piece: 357 grams
How to store: Store in a dark, well ventilated area with less than 70% humidity. Less than 25 degrees C or 77 degrees F. Store in the paper or fabric, not plastic. Keep away from odors and fragrances.
How to infuse: Any cup, pot, or gaiwan made of porcelain, glass, Yixing clay, iron, or other material will work.
Brewing Guidelines: 1st infusion — Loosen and gently break off about 5 grams of tea from the brick for approx. 12 ounces water. Use boiling water (212 degrees F) and infuse for 2 minutes. 2nd infusion — Boiling water, infuse for 2 minutes 3rd infusion — Boiling water, infuse for 3-5 minutes 4th to 7th (or more) infusions — Boiling water, infuse for 5 minutes Infusions: 7 or more times