Dragon Ball Raw Pu'er 生普龙珠
Dragon Ball Raw Pu'er 生普龙珠
Dragon Ball Raw Pu'er 生普龙珠

Dragon Ball Raw Pu'er 生普龙珠

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There are generally three board areas of pu'er teas - Mengla (勐腊县), Menghai (勐海县) and Lincang (临沧). Tribute teas were produced at the six historical tea mountains (古六大茶山) on the east of Lancang River (澜沧江), also known as Inner Tea Mountains (of the Lancang River, 江内六大茶山). These mountains are generally in Mengla. Since 1980s, Hong Kong and Taiwan merchants returned to Yunnan and rediscover ancient villages from these six historical regions as well as villages on the west of Lancang River which have continued to produce teas in the historical manner. These newfound mountains on the west of Lancang River are adjacent to the Inner Tea Mountains, hence are known as New Tea Mountains (新六大茶山) or Outer Tea Mountains (江外六大茶山) and are generally in Menghai. Further north is Lincang, which is named for its proximity to Lancang River on its east, with 'lin' denoting proximity and 'cang' referring to Lancang River. 

At 4,900 km, Lancang River flows out of Qinghai and empties into the South China Sea at Vietnam as the famous Mekong River. Northwest of Lincang City is another river – 3,300 km Nu River (怒江), which flows out of Tibet. West of Lincang City is Bangma region (邦马) where the Great Snow Mountain (邦马大雪山) is the watershed between Lancang River and Nu River. 

The tea villages on the west of Lancang River are located along mountain ranges and villages that have gained international fame recently for producing teas of astronomical value - Bang Dong (邦东) which includes Xi Gui (昔归), and Bang Ma Da Xue Shan (邦马大雪山) which includes Bing Dao (冰岛/丙岛/扁岛), the darling of pu'er teas. As a case in point, in 2018, one kilogram of Bing Dao unsorted tea from young trees are selling at SGD 600, one kilogram of Bing Dao unsorted tea from older trees of at least 50 years old are selling at SGD 1,400 and one kilogram of Bing Dao unsorted tea from ancient trees (usually 100 years) are selling at SGD 8,000. Such prices would have matched the prices of royal tribute teas of all times, if not very much overmatch.

Bing Dao ("Iceland")
Not all hopes are lost that commoners do not have access to these good teas. It is interesting how the Bing Dao tea region expands for the purpose of riding on the bandwagon. The tea region extends radially outward from Bing Dao village (冰岛老寨), it being authentic Bing Dao or Bing Dao 1st ring (冰岛一环). From here, Bing Dao 2nd ring includes Di Jie (地界), Nan Po (南迫), Bai Wai (坝歪), Nuo Wu (糯伍); Bing Dao 3rd ring includes Xiao Hu Village (小户赛) and Mo Lie (磨烈); Bing Dao 4th ring includes Zheng Qi Tang (大忠山正气塘), Bao Mao Di (包麦地), etc. 
The Bing Dao region is generally 1,700 m with stable and cool temperature of 20°C throughout the year with high rainfall slightly lesser than Singapore. It has a good amount of ancient trees above 300 years old, thus producing a tea that has strength and energy, termed as Cha Qi (茶气). This tea was harvested from the larger Bing Dao area surrounding the original Bing Dao village. 

Xi Gui ("The Past Returns")
Xi Gui village is on the Mang Lu Mountain (忙麓山) range of average 1,000 – 1,500 m at the west bank of the midstream section of the 4,900 km Lancang River and on the east of the main village of Bangdong (邦东村). Extending northwest on the same mountain range is another village – Man Gang (曼岗) which is located at a higher elevation of 1,400 to 1,500 m. All the tea areas on this range have sandy red soil, and tea trees grow amongst rocks and boulders – a sign of good tea. There is a good biodiversity in the area, where half of the land is primary forest. The village is at a relatively low elevation of 800 m and is one of the few tea areas which defy the common saying that good teas can only come from high elevation. Coupled with the low annual spring production of about 2 tons from a tiny area of about 200,000 m2 (= 20 hectares), it is no wonder it is highly sought after and attracting astronomical prices. In the olden days, Lancang River was part of the water section of the tea transport route known today as the Tea Horse Route (茶马古道). Because the village is at the bend of the river where it was suitable to build a pier, it developed into a supply point for jute ropes used for tying tea packages. ‘A place to twine jute ropes’ is the meaning of Xi Gui in the local Dai (傣) language. During the end of the Qing dynasty, Xi Gui tea was chosen as official tea of the local government, serving visiting ranking officials from the central Beijing court and local generals. At that time, there were already 6,000 to 7,000 tea planting families, giving us a glimpse of the amount of Xi Gui teas produced and consumed then. Today, the number of families are much lesser, and tea corporations control a lot of the tea lands there. Initially, teas from that area are simply known as Mang Lu Mountain tea. As Xi Gui tea’s quality start to stand out from the rest, it was sold individually unblended since 2006. Xi Gui is also known as "Ban Zhang of Lincang" (临沧班章), Ban Zhang being the tea area much south of Lincang and part of the New Tea Mountains, with bold aggressive flavours familiar to old tea drinkers.


These dragon balls are 2019 spring harvest and each
 ball is about 7g. Compressed into "dragon balls" good for continuous brewing in a standard zisha tea pot, this pu'er is more delicate with smooth body and clear floral notes compared to the bolder ripe pu'er teas. As a raw pu'er ages, the flavours becomes mellower and rounder, sometimes fruitier. Good for enjoyment after years of aging, it could be further aged to develop its character.

Bing Dao has its signature minty, rock sugar aroma and sweetness (冰糖甜香). Xi Gui shares the rock sugar aroma alongside magnolia aroma. As "Ban Zhang of Lincang", Xi Gui presents a bolder profile compared to Bing Dao. We are brewing both dragon balls in our zisha tea pots, with the entire ball brewed with 120ml of 95°C distilled water, pouring out the teas within 15 sec each time. The flavours and sweetness develop progressively and can be enjoyed up to 10 brews.

Packed in 8 balls x ~ 7g.

 

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