This year we decided to get in touch with our Pa Sha farmer and try his autumn tea.
Before that we spend some time in Menghai and going around the shops tasting not only the shu pu-erh but also this years sheng.
Prices ,of course, are fluctuating in wide range so the taste , but something they all have common. Apart of the general “gu hua” autumn taste with touch of “mei li” , the “shui wei” ( watery taste ) is also in present. This characteristic is usually associated with summer harvest but this year was very rainy so spring and autumn leafs were pretty much affected.
Please do understand , this is not a defect or some serious unpleasant taste. It just downgrades the tea ranking ( so the price ) , since is not as rich in flavor as normal tea , and adding fact that autumn leafs are already weak , makes you put more a bit into your teapot or gaiwan.
In past few years local tea economy has changed significantly as many tea farmers got “smarter” . Places like Lao Ban Zhan or Bing Dao will make you wonder about how profitable tea business could be. From small wooden huts and riding horse or cheap Chinese motorbike in spam of 5-8years they all moved into the luxury villas and driving expensive SUV cars. The funniest part is as you,as a foreigner , come there by bus choosing the cheapest option , they will still tell you: ” You foreigners are rich! You can buy our tea no problem !”
Well we are avoiding those places but unfortunately this all pu-erh boom ( which firstly appeared in 2007 ) is spreading like virus all over the Yunnan again . Each year at least one village or place gets promoted where price increase inevitably follows right after.
Yet, there are still many genuine hard working farmers who are not affected by this pu-erh tea boom.
The bad weather 2017 was right but also good excuse for farmers raise prices ,but despite sudden raise 3-5x higher price than last year and lower quality, they still found the buyers.
Booming and constantly promoted tea culture along with increasing tea tourism ( don’t worry , foreigners are not even 1% of it ) who are able to spend few thousands for 1kg of arbor tea tree , makes some tea farmers no longer willing to sell their tea for wholesale prices in their house equipped with nice wooden tea table , hi-tech water filter and accommodation for few guests..etc. ( That’s the business idea which they were missing before , but learned quickly. )
And of course downgrading factor , which has been long time around , is mixing gu shu ( old tea tree ) with ( in better case ) with small arbor or the worse one, with bush tea.
We also visited this trip our farmer in Nan Nuo Shan , and she was telling us story when some tea businessman from Hubei set up high tech night vision cameras all over the garden and processing area to make sure he gets what he pre-paid for. And she felt kind of upset / angry with this.
I couldn’t hold my self to tell her: ” You can blame only your selves here on that”.
They were cases when farmer with full basket of expensive tea leafs on his back coming down from tea garden with customer, said he needed to go to “behind the bushes” ( go to WC ). Well , he had a different basket waiting for him there and swap it. Customer spotted when farmer came back because the first one had a broken strap.
Other case would be that tea on the top of the batch is very different from the bottom and some farmers feel very annoyed when you taste the tea from different places of the same bag /box.
Many tea bosses are mixing the tea as well. Of course the main reason is the price. Whether they honestly admit that or not, is on you to spot.
Other reason is that by mixing tea from different places and trees ( arbor, bush or Bada ,Pasha etc ). you can reach wide spectrum of flavors , which gives to seller more “types” of tea on the shelf and so the price range. Same like with coffee.
That leads to those “fake” teas. They are all teas at the end anyway ,just the label is not right. We took a nice Bu Lang Shan 357g sheng pu-erh wrapped in Lao Ban Zhan cover , as was previous customer’s request. ( close in location and taste but price very different ).
We are going in farmers humble house with motorbike in front gate. His neighbor has a SUV and proper house , so I guess its a question of time when he “wakes” up.
Few big trees in front and many small at the back will tell you what you can expect. As we learn after, his family has only 62 trees.
His Chinese( mandarin ) is very bad so my wife as a native speaker finds very hard to understand him. Me, as a foreigner, with probably a bit better mandarin holding a conversation and price negotiation after all:-) ( Since we both use same range of vocabulary and broken accent , we understand each other quite well:-)
We trying a mixture of 100-200y old tea tree material ( autumn ) and we like the taste. 2017 Pa Sha Qiao Mu – autumn . Despite rainy weather , this batch doesn’t have much of early mentioned “shui wei” and surprisingly rich in flavor almost like spring one .
The mao cha has been used for our product Yunnan Craft – 佛