Thank you for coming onboard Parchmen & Co and travel with us to savour our world in a cup!
We aim to bring tea drinkers into the world of very fine and exclusive teas. These teas used to be inaccessible to commoners in time gone by, but today we are able to bring it to you via our network of sourcing direct from the farms and our friendship with the producers.
The three teas on feature are a green tea, yellow tea and raw puer tea, namely:
- 2023 Pre-Qingming Mei Tan Emerald Tips Grade 1 湄潭翠芽绿茶一级, 10g
- 2020 Wei Shan Mao Jian Yellow Tea Grade 1 沩山毛尖黄茶一级, 10g
- 2017 Geng Ma Raw Pu'er 耿马生普尔, 10g
The first tea today is a green tea from Mei Tan County of Guizhou province. Mei Tan is the largest tea producing county in Guizhou and the second largest tea producing county in China, right after. It also holds the record for the world's largest tea pot in the Guinness Book of Records. Mei Tan is situated on the descending slopes of the famous Yun Gui Highlands (云贵高原), with tea fields at elevation of 800 to 1,300m. The area is under effect of the shifting trade winds, often producing very low and dense clouds that shroud the tea farms, deflecting away direct sunlight and promoting a slow development in the tea plants. The tea's birth was under a culmination of factors. Firstly, the Central Agricultural Experimentation Institute collaborated with China Tea Company to open an experimentation station in the county in 1939. In 1940, Zhejiang University of Dragon Well fame began teaching in the county, and the experimentation station became the natural breeding ground for development of new teas. During WWII in 1943, a green tea was made using the local landrace and processed using the famous Dragon Well (龙井) method. With some adaptation and other improvements, the tea was finally named and marketed in 1954. With a short history, this tea is protected under the Geographical Indicator legislation of China since 2017.
The tea looks flat and glossy. It is picked one bud one leaf. Being grade 1, the picking is slightly later when the leaf has grown larger and the adjourning stem has grown longer, as well as less stringent requirements in the tidying up of the appearance of the leaves. We are brewing this tea at 3g to 150ml of 85°C water for 30 sec in our Parchmen Tea Evaluation Set. The brew colour is light cinnamon, and the brewed leaves smell of jasmine, changing to roasted chestnut, then to magnolia. On the palate, the tea is sweet and round, with light body, with aroma of jasmine, roasted chestnut and a surprising papaya. Being a green tea, it can be brewed once or twice more, with the same parameters, with similar profile but with developing astringency. You could experiment with a lower brew temperature of 70°C without changing the rest of the brew parameters. The sweetness and smoothness will be lifted, but the aroma will be at discount to the 85°C brew. There is no perfect tea brewing - it is always a balance of competing factors.
The second tea is Wei Shan Mao Jian, a yellow tea. Let's discuss the land of Wei Shan, then Mao Jian, then the techniques of a yellow tea. Wei Shan is in Ning Xiang County (宁乡县) of Hunan province (湖南省). Other famous teas from the province is Gu Zhang Mao Jian (古丈毛尖), An Hua Pine Needle (安化松针) featured in our October 2023 subscription, Jun Shan Silver Needle (君山银针) which is another famous yellow tea.
Wei Shan is a relatively low mountain in Hunan, with its peak at 800m only. However, archeological discoveries since 1930s suggest that it is Ground Zero of Chinese civilisation. At the foot of the mountain, Tanheli (炭河里) is a major national historical and cultural site renowned as a Bronze Age cultural centre in China. More than 2,000 pieces of historical artefacts have been unearthed, stretching back 4,000 years ago to the Shang Dynasty (1766 to 1046 BCE) and Zhou Dynasty (1045 to 771 BCE). Aerchelogists believe the site is a small country subordinate to the dynasty, and was ruled by a queen. Adjacent to Tanheli is an ancient Buddhist monastery called Mi Yin Monastery (密印寺), established in the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907) and the site of the founding of a branch of Chinese Zen Buddhism. Located at the centre of the populated part of China, it enjoys cool all-year temperature of 5 to 29°C, with ample rainfall at 1,400ml, and good sunshine at 1,700 hours. Such environment maks Weishan an ideal location for the making of Weishan Mao Jian.
Mao Jian usually refers to a green tea, and the Wei Shan Mao Jian is an exception. Referring to the style of the appearance, Mao Jian is essentially slender and spiky, as compared to Maofeng which is usually plump. Both styles are one bud and one leaf for the best grades. Our tea is grade 1, meaning it is picked with 1 bud and 2 leaves and from a later harvest. A yellow tea is developed based on the green tea processing, but carries the additional step of 'sweltering' (闷黄) which promotes a slight fermentation to the leaves aside from the usual oxidation in tea processing. Because of this step, the chlorophyll is destroyed together with the catechins, hence losing the typical green characteristics of vegetal aromas and astringency, while introducing a mellower flavour on a heavier body. Wei Shan Mao Jian traditionally undergoes a smoking process, so it expectedly smells slightly woody and smoky. Our tea has been aged for 3 years since the spring harvest in 2020, and the sweetness and roundness are more apparent. The leaf colour has darkened after this period of aging. This tea is also protected under the Geographical Indicator legislation of China since 2016.
We are brewing this tea in our Parchmen Tea Evaluation Set, at 3g to 120ml of 75°C of distilled water. Like a green tea, it has low stamina and can be enjoyed for about three brews. The dry leaves smell of candied fruits. The brew colour is yellow, at a shade darker than the cinnamon yellow of the Mei Tan tea. The brewed leaves smell unsurprisingly like raw pu'er, with notes of sandalwood-like woodiness against a sweet background, but with less punch than an actual pu'er. Although it has been lightly smoked, it exhibits characteristics of sweet fruits more than smoke in the aroma. On the palate, the tea is thicker than a green tea and more rounded, with vegetal notes that are subdued, and fruity sweetness almost tasting like small berries - think blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants. There is also a hint of milk. In subsequent brew, the thick body remains and little astringency develops.
The last tea is a raw puer from Geng Ma county of Lin Cang (临沧). This tea is a wild tea, meaning there is no agricultural activities done on them and are not owned by anyone, and the tea trees live with other wild trees. Surely, there is a natural ecosystem in such tea lands, with immense biodiversity. The tea trees growing within the ecosystem are less recognisable, often masked within the thick growth of other trees. The competition for soil nutrients means such tea trees grow more slowly, and overtime, they lose chlorophyll since the need for photosynthesis is reduced. These tea trees thus look less green, translating that look into the tea.
Under a regulation on protection of old tea trees in Yunnan adopted since 2005, trees which are a century old can be considered an old tree (gushu, 古树). Based on an official land survey, Lincang has 23,160 mu (亩) of cultivated gushu tea land, translating to more than 15 square km; wild gushu land is at 44300 mu, translating to about 30 square km. Located on the west of the city, Gengma is a vast county of mountains rising to 2,000m. Our tea is from wild gushu land, at 2,000 - 2,100m, aged since 2017.
Made by the Japanese tea maker Hojo based in Malaysia, he has asked that the greens undergo a high temperature but shorter time of Kill Green, so as to lose moisture fast and shorten the entire process to preserve the natural floral notes of the tea. This innovative method of Kill Green results in a tea that is impressively clean tasting and floral. The tea comes in 200g tea cakes. It is remarkably tippy, with hairy silver threads interwoven with other threads of colours ranging from yellow to red to dark grey, forming a beautiful tapestry of coloured strands that are clearly defined.
We are brewing this tea in our 'Bell' zisha teapot, at 6g to 120ml of distilled water, with a relatively low temperature of 92°C for 20 sec. The brew colour is golden. The brewed leaves smell of flowers, hawthorn and sour plums. Upon drinking, the first impression was a short but curious roastiness, a 'fire' flavour, which could be from the high temperature pan-frying during Kill Green and remained in the tea even after six years of aging. But that immediately gives way to a sweet floral note, and as it cools, the sensation at the tip of your tongue gives a hint of rock sugar (冰糖), which is the defining flavour of the enchanting but exorbitant Bing Dao (冰岛). This is not surprisnig as it is neighbour with Bing Dao at the northeast of the county, sharing the same mountain range, soils and growing environment. This flavour could manifest itself on the credits of the clarity of flavour notes brought by the high-temperature-short-time Kill Green. There is little astringency, and the afterflavour is clean and sweet. Jasmine notes dominate the entire palate. Mouthfeel is soft, mashmellow-ish and with medium thickness.
Thank you for coming onboard with us to travel and savour our world in a cup!