On 3rd October 2010, the author visited Bangmu village on the east side of Mengku, Lincang district for an opportunity to get involved with the making of Puerh tea, this is the mountain area east of the Mengku River, locals call it "East half of the Mengku Mountain, This area planted Mengku large-leaf variety quite early on. This area has an average altitude of 1450 metres above sea level, it is 8km from the road to the village, and the journey is commonly made by tractor.
By the time we arrived at the village, night had already fallen, and there was a power cut. This village was only connected to the electrical grid in recent years, life is arduous up there. Around a dozen families live in the village, each owning tea gardens of around a dozen acres. Regarding the age of the tea plants, a local man in his eighties said that when he was born, the tea trees were similar to how they are today.
Early on the second day, everyone rushed out to pick tea. In line with our abilities, we picked as much as we could. The weather was fine on this day, the sun finding opportunities to burst through the clouds.
Before I had picked, I did not know. After picking, I knew. Picking tea is not a romantic activity, its tiring work: if one desires to take a kilo of dry, finished tea home, one must pick four kilos of fresh leaves, a small bamboo basket full.
Generally speaking, fresh tea picked for wilting consists of one bud and three leaves, or even four leaves, as far as the tea plants are concerned, the more leaves that are picked, the more buds they emit. In this region, twice-monthly pickings|are commonplace, at the time we were there, it was the autumn tea season, come mid-November, there would be no more new growth to pick. Here, the autumn tea buds are small and leaves are big. When picking the tea, it is important not to tear the stalks with our nails as we pick, the stems should be cut with a tug or a twist; the locals say that fingernails can contain foreign bodies which might harm the plants, in reality tearing with our nails will have a negative influence on the next bud growth.
All tea leaves are withered for a while after picking in order to rid them of some of their water content before heat processing and rolling. The most important thing here is centralising the production of each day's harvest in order to tally with the desired amount of final product Most family tea makers can work the leaves into a finished product in one day, many work late into the night in comparison with the withering process, heat processing of the tea is a more skilled affair.
The rolling process is necessary to break the cell walls within the tea, after which the 'juice' within the tea is able to seep out, resulting In a flavour developing. The technique of heat processing and the stir frying of food is fundamentally the same, the crux is judging to what level you are cooking. Too hot is no good, and too cold is not good either; it is here that experience plays a key part The process is as follows: Light the stove, once the wok is heated to a suitable temperature, put the tea leaves in, quickly moving them in the pan, there is an audible rhythm to the movements of the pan. Once the water has departed from the tea, and the stems become limp this is essentially the end of the process. After taking the leaves from the pan, they are rotted. The force exerted during the rolling of the leave determines the bitterness and astringency of the tea, and is a decisive element in the final appearance of the tea. Appropriate rolling of Mengku tea should not be too forceful or loo gentie, allowing the leaves to be loosely packed, large and inter-weaved.
Sun drying tea: As the name suggests, this process is the drying of tea using the heat of the sun, and is the basis of Puerh production. Extensive evidence and experience point to the fact that sun dried Puerh teas have great potential for the later stages of ageing.
Extensive evidence and experience point to the fact that sun dried Puerh teas have great potential for the later stages of ageing. Fine raw materials are the basis of fine teas, picking the leaves myself and making the tea is half of the work; this tea brews by gongfu tea ceremony set to really display the characteristics of this area, with a substantial flavour, strong fragrance, and slight green notes. It can be said that this tea is a successful finished product, perhaps after several further autumns of ageing this tea will enjoy another spring...