Bai Yan Shan High Mountain Raw Pu-erh Tea is produced from tea garden located at about 2300m.
The garden has gone completely wild since it was left unattended for decades.
Tea garden that altitude is at 2300m
In Chinese, Bai Yan Shan means White Rock Mountain. It is located in the west Lincang of Yunnan Province, China. The peak is at around 2400m. There is a huge white rock on the slope near the mountain peak. This is why the mountain is called Bai Yan Shan. The altitude of the tea garden is at around 2300m. Recently, most of our pu-erh tea line-ups is from tea gardens that altitude is more than 2000m. But 2300m is outstandingly high altitude. On high elevation, the oxygen level is low and there is a huge temperature gap between day and night. These factors make tea rich in minerals and constituents; tea becomes rich and thick in taste.
Hidden garden taught by the cow boy
In Yunnan, if we go up far from the village, we have a chance to run into abandon tea gardens. These tea gardens went completely wild and tea trees are completely surrounded by weeds. I am aware that those gardens produce excellent tea. So, whenever I have time, I often walk up far away from the villages to look for hidden places.
In 2018, I was exploring the new places in Zhenkang county in the west Lincang. Then I met a cow boy at mountain path. He taught us that there is an abandon tea garden near the peak of the mountain called Bai Yan Shan. To go to that tea garden, it takes more than 1.5 hours on foot. We needed to take small path and sometimes had to push our way through the bushy trail. When I reached the peak, I could not really recognize where the garden was. We had to carefully look for tea trees. Most of the tea trees were covered inside multiple types of weeds and it looked nothing but bush. The small bushes with yellowish leaves are tea trees. According to the grandmother (80 years old) of my tea manufacturer, these gardens have existed ever since she was a small kid. She told us that the age of tea trees is more than hundred years old. However, these tea trees were generally shorter and slimmer compared to the old tea trees at lower altitude. The growing speed of these tea trees seems much slower than those at lower altitude. It could be due to the harsh environment, high altitude, windy place, no fertilizer and bushy ecology.
Villagers call this tea as Bitter Tea
In fact, there is another reason why no one in the village was interested to collect tea here. It seems villagers think that the tea from that garden is very bitter. Even the cow boy told us about the bitter taste of that tea. The villagers called it as Kucha (苦茶) ; it means bitter tea in Chinese. However, I did not really take it at face value. As a rule of thumb, the higher the quality of tea, the richer the tea constituents it contains. With the imperfect management on pan-frying processed, tea taste tends to be very bitter. If farmer do not know how to manage the process of tea well, no doubt that tea tastes very bitter. So, I rather assumed that tea of Bai Yan Shan would be of very good quality. When I try chewing the fresh tea leaf in the garden, I felt tea was not bitter. As we managed the process well too, pu-erh tea mao-cha was not bitter at all. It rather gives sweetness. To me, its quality was very impressive.
Tea has muscatel flavor
Thanks to sunny environment, high altitude and never removing weeds, tea garden has plenty of green flies (plant hoppers). Thus, tea leaves are heavily attacked by green flies and it turned yellowish colour like banana skin. Just like the Oriental Beauty tea in Taiwan, tea being attacked by these green flies will develop muscatel flavour. I was so impressed by the flavor of fresh tea leaf. Despite it is just fresh leaf and not processed yet, it was giving very distinctive muscatel flavour. After tea was processed into pu-erh tea, it still remains muscatel flavour. It really was like Oriental Beauty in Taiwan. After compression into tea cake, the muscatel flavour disappeared. After tea is kept for some time, now the muscatel note is gradually developed. Perhaps the muscatel flavour will come back more when tea is further aged for some time.
Tea collected by cow boys and our own effort
Sadly, we only managed to process less quantity than initially we have expected. We actually faced the problem in collecting fresh tea leaves. On first day, we arranged six people for tea plucking. They are the relatives of my tea manufacturer. However, on second day, only three people were willing to work, and they gave up one after another, and on third day only one person remained. They complained their clothes was torn and their faces and hands got too many scratches due to too many thorns of wild plants that covered the tea trees. Since we are critically short of manpower for tea plucking, we asked cow boys to pluck tea as much as they can. They are quite used to the environment in mountain. So, their performance is much better than regular tea pluckers. We also often go there to pluck tea by ourselves. After various tea plucking efforts, we managed to collect certain volume of tea.
Soft and gentle high mountain taste
Bai Yan Shan High Mountain Raw Pu-erh Tea gives a sweet flavour like apricots, and a hint of honey note. Since tea is very rich in constituents such as poly phenols and minerals, it will certainly age very well. The rich constituents also give long-lasting aftertaste. It gives soft and creamy mouth-feel too. In addition, it gives very clean and transparent drinking sensation thanks to the wild growing environment and rich sunshine.