You Le Mountain

Loose Leaf Sheng Puer 2007

Complex, deep flavors that change through many infusions with gentle floral and herbaceous aromatics. An old time tribute tea from one of the two left of Yunnan’s six famous tea mountains, made from old growth puer tea trees. A remarkable traditional sheng puer.

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Tea Origin
You Le Mountain, Xishuangbanna City, Yunnan Province, China

Tea Bush
Yunnan Large Leaf Tea Tree (Yunnan Da Ye Zhong)

Tea Master
Yang Guang Qing

Harvest Time
Early March

Picking Standard
One bud, one leaf

You Le Mountain is one of the Six Famous Mountains for puer. The tea that comes from this region is known for its rich, complex flavor and long finish. There are still many old growth trees in the area, some between 100 and 300 years old. It is very uncommon to find a loose leaf sheng (raw) puer made only from these trees, because it will usually be blended with other mao cha to create richness in a puer cake.

This You Le sheng puer is a rare and we feel privileged to be able to get some. About 70% of it is tea buds, the remaining 30% being tender young leaves. The aroma of the dry leaves sets the standard for the mao cha that comes from ancient trees. The brewed tea smells like fresh lotus. During the Qing Dynasty this tea was pressed into large melon-shaped balls for tribute to the Emperor. The plucking standard was the same. This tea is a very good tea to be aged if you can stop yourself from drinking it.

Pu’er City government did research for the puer tea market, and found that there are less than 4% of sheng puer cakes that come from old growth 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 herbals 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 in dangerous remote living conditions. The Bulang people treat tea as their totem. If you visit their village, on the top of their roofs are large wood carvings of tea pluckings with one bud and two leaves. These farmers own and look after their tea trees. They don’t have the technology to ferment their tea into shu puer, so they will only sell loose sheng puer mao cha to producers. 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 harvested 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 the new growth has grown into one bud and one leaf, it is time to start picking. Most tea farmers like to pick sprigs consisting of one bud and two 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 normally take about 15 days to regrow now can take up to a month. The drought was originally just affecting the young tea bushes in Yunnan, but now even the old trees are decreasing in quantity. All of 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 of Yunnan’s warm climate. They collect fresh tea leaves in large bamboo baskets 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 some of the naturally occurring oxidation-causing enzymes to persist within the leaves. Puer tea has a lot more enzymes left functional than other teas that destroy most of them with hotter frying temperatures, 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 for kneading. Puer is not kneaded with a machine, but instead twisted and rolled by hand into their shape by the traditional method. 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. Mao cha will usually be compressed into cakes, but we are fortunate to have the opportunity to carry uncompressed sheng puer.

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.


You Le Mountain 2007 brewing guidelines

Brewing vessel: Glass cup, gaiwan, glass or porcelain pot, yixing pot
Brewing Guidelines: 1st infusion 1 tablespoon of tea per 12 oz of water, 212 degrees F for 2 min
Infusions: At least 7 times