Jing Mai Early Spring Ancient Tree
Sheng Puer Cake 357g 2011
Due to the prolonged drought in Yunnan, Jing Mai’s tea has become more and more rare. This is a great sheng puer to enjoy now or keep as a collectable.
- Tea Origin
- Jing Mai, Yunnan Province, China
- Tea Bush
- 100-200 year old tea trees
- Tea Master
- Li Dong
- Harvest Time
- Picking Standard
- 1 bud: 2 leaves
Jing Mai is situated along the Lin Cang (Mekong) river, between Xi Shuang Ba Na, Puer City and the Burmese border. It is mountainous and thickly forested with a perrenial “cloud ocean” surrounding its peaks. Jing Mai’s elevation reaches as high as 1662 meters above Sea level. In its lower regions, terraced tea gardens were developed by the government in this area in the 60s. The rich biodiversity of the area is especially evident in the early summer months when the air if thick with the fragrance of flowers.
There is a 1,300 year history of growing tea in Jing Mai, primarily grown by the Bulang, Dai, and Wa ethnic groups. All of the villages throughout the mountains share tea as their livelihood and work in cooperation. The Bulang people in particular, are known for using the image of an opening tea bud as the carving that adorns their architecture.
Every year these villagers will plant new tea bushes from seeds for future generations which will become yielding bushes within three years. These efforts to propagate new tea bushes year after year is vital to supplement the trees that naturally die or are slowed in their growth. This is method of agriculture is a far cry from the large commercial tea fields of uniform bushes growing in a line without other plants nearby. As a result, depending on where their seeds are sown and how the contours of the forest develop around them, these tea bushes yield and grow differently. We encountered a two or three hundred year old tea bush that was less than four meters tall, caught in the shade of a mammoth and much younger camphor tree, competing for its nutrients.
This green puer cake is selected from mao cha from 100-200 year old tea trees which is naturally grown within the wildflowers and trees of the forest. When the bush yields in the spring and the forest is blooming, it absorbs a complex aroma. Being from old trees, this tea yields rich and complex flavors. Tea pickers 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.
Due to the prolonged drought in Yunnan, Jing Mai’s tea has become more and more rare. This is a great green puer to enjoy now or keep as a collectable.
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.
Jing Mai Early Spring Ancient Tree 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