Youleshan (Youle 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.
- Tea Origin
- Youle Mountain, Xishuangbanna City, Yunnan Province, China
- Tea Bush
- Yunnan Daye Quntizhong (Yunnan Large Leaf Heirloom Tea Tree)
- Tea Master
- Yang Guang Qing
- Harvest Time
- Early March
- Picking Standard
- One bud, one leaf
Youle Mountain is one of the Six Famous Mountains for puer. There are still many old growth tea trees in the Youle area, some between 100 and 300 years old. The tea that comes from this region is known for its rich, complex flavor and long finish. The floral aroma of the brew smells like fresh lotus.
It is very uncommon to find a loose-leaf sheng (raw) puer made only from these old trees, because it will usually be blended with other lower quality mao cha to lend its rich flavor. Pu’er City government did research for the puer tea market, and found that less than 4% of sheng puer cakes come from old growth tea trees (100 years or older).
This Youle sheng puer is quite rare and we feel privileged to be able to get some. About 70% of it is tea buds, and the remaining 30% is tender young leaves. This is the same high quality plucking standard that was used during the Qing Dynasty, when this tea was pressed into large melon-shaped cakes as a tribute tea for the emperor. This tea is a very good tea to be aged if you can stop yourself from drinking it.
The caretakers of Yunnan’s old tea trees
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 a highly useful herbal that can be consumed as medicine. They use it very medicinally, chewing or grinding the tea leaves to relieve bites and stings. Tea helps keep them healthy in dangerous remote living conditions.
The Bulang people even 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. Although some tea farmers have the skills to compress tea into cakes in their village, very few can do this.
The puer harvest
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 harvesting. Most tea farmers like to pick young sprigs consisting of one bud and two leaves. Just like tea bushes, the main branch or trunk of the tree will grow tea buds before the smaller side branches do. Tea pickers have to climb up the trees to pick from the very top, which can grow 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. Tea pickers come back a few days later to pick the new growth on the smaller branches. 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.
Processing sheng puer
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 key difference 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 sun rooms that protect the tea from rain while still allow sunshine to continue drying the leaves. If the leaves are rained on, the moisture will encourage mold growth. Tea masters must be very attentive to supervising the whole 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.
Youleshan (Youle Mountain) 2007 brewing guidelines
5 grams (1 Tb) tea
12 oz 100°C (212ºF) water
3 min. first infusion
At least 5 infusions: 3, 3, 5, 8, 10 minutes