Ma Guo Tou (Caravan Leader)

Shu Puer Cake 400g 2012

A carefully crafted shu puer made with young one bud and one leaf pluckings, processed slowly in a 90-day ripening process for a gold medal winning clean, deep, and rich flavor. A rich red-colored infusion with a lightly fruity and lingering finish.



13 in stock

Tea Origin
Jinggu County, Pu'er City, Yunnan Province, China

Tea Bush
Yunnan Dayezhong (Yunnan Large Leaf Tea Tree)

Tea Maker
Hu Haoming and Wang Xiqun

Harvest Time

Plucking Standard
One bud, one leaf

This shu puer cake was made from tea buds and tender leaves which were fermented three months before being pressed into cakes. The creators of this tea, Mr. Hu Haoming, a third-generation tea producer, and Wang Xiqun, like to source the mao cha (uncompressed sun-dried sheng puer tea leaves) by themselves. 

This cake is carefully crafted to have less earthiness and more sweetness through a combination of the leaves used to make it and a closely controlled fermentation (ripening) process.

The story of the Ma Guo Tou

Ma Guo Tou means the leader of a caravan, a train of pack horses, which was the method used to transport puer in ancient times. The leaders of these horse trains were naturally inclined to drink the very best tea available. As a result, these Ma Guo Tou were highly regarded as judges of a tea’s quality. The picture on the cake’s wrapper is a depiction of Wang Xiqun’s face, who is in many ways a modern Ma Guo Tou. In the old days, the Ma Guo Tou’s job was to source tea from deep within the forests and to make sure the horses and workers were transported through the jungles and rivers along the route. Since the 1970’s, Wang Xiqun has worked, like the past Ma Guo Tou, to source and transport tea from growing areas throughout Yunnan’s forests. Mr. Wang is very respectful to the minority ethnic groups in Yunnan, who own most of the tea trees in the forests, even now. He has built relationships with Yunnan’s tea growers for many years, allowing him to source tea of rare and authentic quality.

This tea was plucked from bushes between forty and one hundred years old in the heavily forested Jinggu county. In 1978, in Jinggu, a tea scientist found a fossil of an ancestor for the tea plant from over 35 million years ago, called Kuan Ye Mu Lan, making a strong case for the region being the place where tea first evolved. Jinggu is home to the Dai and Yi ethnic groups, who have lived with tea as part of their life for a millennium. Jinggu’s subtropical monsoon climate does not just suit tea plants but also champagne mango trees which bear the county’s next most famous crop. The biodiversity of its forests influence the character of its tea profoundly, and some even insist that the teas capture a shade of flavor from those mango trees in the deep layers of their body.

This tea was produced by the biggest tea company in Jinggu, which used to be owned by the government. They have a highly skilled method for the fermentation process. 

Processing of the namesake shu puer cake

In spring, tea is harvested from March to April to make mao cha. The mao cha is piled about 2 1/2 feet high in the factory and covered with large sheets of fabric. The environment is full of microbes necessary for the fermentation (ripening) process. The mao cha still has lots of moisture and active enzymes, and over the course of 90 days (30 days longer than most tea companies), the tea will slowly oxidize and ferment. Heat is created inside the fermenting tea. Every few days, workers under the supervision of Wang Xiqun will separate the leaves by using wooden shovels to move the entire pile of tea to the other side of the factory. The leaves stick together during this process, so a separating machine is also used when the tea is moved.

After the fermentation process is finished, all the tea becomes loose shu puer tea. They will use sorting machines to sort out all the leaves into different grades. The smallest sized leaves are 1st grade, increasing all the way up to larger leaves for the 10th grade. After the sorting process, they select the first and second grades of leaves and tea buds to steam and compress into Ma Guo Tou cakes. Using these small leaves creates a cake similar to cakes of puer tea historically made for the Qing Dynasty royal family.

This very special cake was produced by the Cha Ma Si Tea Company. The bright red color of the infused tea indicates very concentrated nutrition. Its flavor is full-bodied but not heavy, with a pronounced sweetness in the aftertaste.

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.

Total cake weight may vary due to the gradual moisture loss with aging.

Ma Guo Tou (Caravan Leader) 2012 brewing guidelines

Break off a small piece from cake (learn how)

5 grams tea

12 oz 100°C (212ºF) water

3 min. first infusion

At least 5 infusions: 3, 3, 5, 8, 10 minutes