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, white tea and wulong tea, namely:
- 2023 Pre-Qingming Five Peaks Cai Hua Mao Jian 五峰采花毛尖, 6g
- 2018 Wuyi Cliff Tea Xing Chun Sparrow's Tongue 武夷岩茶星村雀舌 6g
- 2019 Dong Guo Mo Lie Raw Pu'er 懂过磨烈生普洱, 6g
Hubei is a landlocked province in ancient Chinese historical boundaries of zhong Yuan (中原), and it has been producing teas since the 8th century. Today we have an uncommon green tea from Five Peaks Tujia Ethnic Minority Autonomous County (五峰土家族自治县) of the province. Nested entirely in the mountains, the name came from the five peaks that dominate the mountain range. The county is located at the intersection of Han Jiang Plateau (江汉平原) and Yunnan-Guizhou Highlands (云贵高原). Wedged between the Yangtze River (长江) and Han Jiang (汉江), Han Jiang Plateau was formed by the accumulation of mineral-rich soils carried in them from the highlands. Within this plateau is Jingzhou (荆州) from the fame of the Romance of the Three Kingdom. Yunnan-Guizhou Highlands extending from Yunnan in the west to Wuling Mountain Range (武陵山脉) in the east is known for its rich biodiversity and being one of the earliest and best preserved example of Karst topography with its rugged limestone terrain and deep gorges.
Tang dynasty tea classic (《茶经》) - the first tea literature ever written - mentioned that good tea can be found at the south of the mountain in Jia Zhou (“峡州山南出好茶”), where Jia Zhou is now Wufeng. Parchmen & Co first came to know about this tea region in 2017 when we visited Hubei to take part in the International Tea Master's Competition. The warm climate and good soil allow the production of green tea throughout the year. The highest peak within Wufeng at an elevation of 2,300m is in Cai Hua Village (采花乡), literally meaning the Village of Flower Picking, and is where our tea was cultivated. Always shrouded in mist, the diffused sunlight stretches the development cycle in the tea trees, allowing more time to develop its aromatic compounds and nutritional values. As part of Karst topography in Yunnan-Guizhou Highlands, scientists have found that teas grown in these limestone-rich areas produce lower levels of polyphenol, thus making the tea less astringent. Further, the area is naturally rich in selenium. This trace element is said to have cancer-fighting properties and gives a slight metallic and heavy flavour to the tea.
Picked one bud one leaf before Qingming of 2023, the tea is firmly rolled into thin strands like needles, and each strand has a coat of silvery hair indicating its early picking. This is the rolling style as prescribed by 'Mao Jian' within its name, literally meaning hairy and spiky. The dry tea smells of an intense fruity sweetness, seaweed and spinach, alongside spicy notes. These characteristics pervade the brew and we notice the curious spicy-spinach note is common to teas from the Yunnan-Guizhou Highlands.
We are brewing this tea in the Parchmen glass gaiwan, at 3g to 120ml of 75℃ distilled water for 35 sec. We are brewing it three times, with careful pouring and constrained stirring of the water. The brewed leaves smelled of a bouquet of wild flowers, so inviting it makes us hungry. The brew is light cinnamon with a tinge of green. As a first impression, the brew is very thick for a green tea and slightly viscous, perhaps made heavy with the heightened presence of selenium. The tea is dominated by the spinach-spicy note and it is energetic with some tinkling on the tongue, even registering a 'wulong bump' at the throat upon swallowing. It leaves a clean and short afterflavour and not much astringency is detected. A green tea that feels like a wulong tea, it can be enjoyed throughout the daytime and can be embraced without worry on green tea sharpness.
Our second tea today is a dark roasted wulong tea from Wuyi Mountain. Sparrow’s Tongue is a second generation descendant of stock #1 (counting from the left) of the six stocks of tea trees at Tian Xin Cliff (天心岩) Da Hong Pao (大红袍, Scarlet Robe) location, which is perhaps the most famous tourist attraction site of Wuyi Mountain. The propagation is done through sexual reproduction in 1980s. Its association with Tian Xin Cliff also earned it the Scarlet Robe aura, although they are indeed different varieties. Adding to this confusion, Sparrow's Tongue is widely regarded as the same as another famous variety Bu Zhi Chun (不知春), although there are considered different varieties in older times.
So named due to its unique tea leaves shaped like a sparrow's tongue, it is one of the most famous cultivars in Wuyi Mountain. This tea should not be confused with the green tea of the same name from Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces. Being different teas, they are called similarly because the shapes of their leaves are fat and pointed, just like a sparrow’s tongue.
This tea was grown and processed in Wuyi Mountain Xing Cun (literally 'Star Village') where it is said that "tea becomes aromatic only after reaching Xing Cun" (茶不到星村不香), hinting at the technical prowess of the tea masters in that village. Picked one bud one leaf in 2018, this tea is produced by Wang Guo Xing (王国兴), who was appointed by the Chinese government as the custodian of the intangible cultural heritage of Scarlet Robe tea (非物质文化遗产武夷岩茶（大红袍）制作技艺传承人). He was also involved in the final harvest and processing from the six stocks of Scarlet Robe at Tian Xin Cliff in 2006.
We are brewing this tea in our “Compass” zisha tea pot, at 95°C for 60 sec, at 6 gm to 120 ml distilled water for the first and second brews and shortening brew time to 45 sec for subsequent brews until the tea tasted diluted at the fifth brew. Colour should be orange amber. We are drinking from slightly bigger tea cups for its intense aroma and to allow faster cooling of the tea. Experienced Wuyi tea masters often say Wuyi wulong tea is to drink and not to smell, so the focus of the processing technique should lead to a strong flavour rather than mere intense aroma. In all our brews, we focus on a bold and deep flavour with no astringency, while we enjoy its accompanying creamy, floral and fruity aroma without obvious roastiness. Tea should be balanced with no obvious bitterness or sweetness. We noted gardenia, roasted coconut, toffee and coriander from the various brews. Sweetness becomes more apparent as the tea cools. The classic cliff tea characteristic of 'Floral Aroma against a Rock Core' (岩骨花香) is epitomised in this tea.
The last tea today is a raw pu'er from Dong Guo Village (懂过村) of Mengku Township (勐库镇). Specifically, this tea is from the deep inaccessible mountains to the east of the village, at Mo Lie (磨烈) which is known to be the darling of Dong Guo tea area. North of Mengku and south of the famed Bingdao (冰岛), it sits at 1,750m on pristine terrain at high contours beside the Bingdao Lake (冰岛湖). The fact that it was relatively unknown only until 2015 brough it instant fame when its flavour stood out against the teas in the area. It has now earned its title of ‘Little Bingdao' (小冰岛), sealing its status as an exceptional tea comparable to the famed tea to its north.
The attraction of this tea comes from its intense flavour commensurate with its hiddenness - wild gardenia with mossy and foresty undertones, on a medium thick body, and with more brews, the sweetness turns sparkling and the intense gardenia aroma integrating deeply with the brew instead of being a separate experience in the first few brews.
Surely, the strong afterflavour and high brewing stamina of this tea are marks of mineral-rich ancient soils and old age of the wild trees - believed to be 250 years and up. Mengku is famous for its well preserved ancient trees. Nested within forested mountain ranges, its terrain is defined by two mountains and a river - Bang Ma Mountain (邦马山) on its west and Ma An Mountain (马鞍山) on its east, and the Nan Meng River (南勐河) that runs through it. It is also the home of the Mengku Daye Tea (勐库大叶茶种), a wild variety in Mengku county. In November 1985, Yunnan Tea Research Institute (云南省农科院茶叶研究所) recognised that this variety is an authentic Yunnan Daye Tea variety (云南大叶种茶的正宗), which means this is the original assamica variety, the ancester of Yunnan tea trees. In coffee terms, it can be called a landrace and a heirloom tea. Yunnan tea region lies on the Hengduan Mountain Range (横断山脉), created during the formation of the Himalayas when Eurasian and Indo-Australian tectonic plates collided 50 million years ago and continues today. It is no wonder the saying that Yunnan Pu'er is an antique that can be drunk.
We are brewing this tea in our Parchmen Zisha Tea Pot "Authority" (秦权壶). Using all 6g to 120ml of 95°C filtered water, we brew for 30 sec each. Tea colour is yellow beige, with no bitterness, low astringency, full of jasmines aroma against a foresty undertone. There is some saltiness in the flavour, hinting at the mineral content in the brew. Impressively, there is immediate throat resonance and afterflavour, with saliva running towards the tip of the tongue, massaging it once the tea hits it. The afterflavour has a curious hint of roasted coconut, almost like sweet kaya or gula melaka. With more brews, you form the impression that this is a powerful tea but yet it is very seasoned and rounded, having an authoritative aura but yet gentlemanly and not aggressive. As the sparkling sweetness grows from the third brew, the tea colour and thickness retain, still with low bitterness and low astringency. Aged from 2019, the tea is round and smooth, and is suitable for daytime drinking. Avoid night drinking as the tea is still young and strong in caffeine.
Thank you for coming onboard with us to travel and savour our world in a cup!