April 2020/April 2021
Mr. Tang left his corporate job in the city, Kunming, in 2006. He had rented a small place in rural Yunnan where his only intentions were to read, reflect, and drink tea with friends. In one of these conversations an old friend, Li, suggested that Tang grow tea in Li’s hometown, Yangta Village. That July the two of them traveled to Jinggu in Yangta and leased 11 acres of forested area from Li’s niece.
The area they leased was wild growth, at about 6500 ft elevation. This is where they would eventually plant 70,000 Jinggu Big White tea trees. However, Tang found out, somewhat far into the process of planting, that one cannot harvest newly planted tea trees until they have stood in the ground for 3 years. Confronted with this long pause, Tang leased another tea garden in the mountain that locals had shown him; a highly regarded area that was home to ancient pu’erh trees. And so, while he waited for his Jinggu Big Whites, Tang began making pu’erh from these very old trees.
Ancient Spring is from a very old tea garden made up of less than 200 arbor trees of the Mengku varietal. The trees are between 100 to 150 years old; they were planted by the great-grandfather of a local villager. The garden sits at 5,800 ft elevation, hidden deep in the woods on the North facing side of the mountain. It is only accessible by a steep trek through the dense pine forest. This is a protected area, and has never been inhabited, as it is where the water source for the village is found.
We visited Tang’s tea estate in April 2019 and Tang took us on the steep hike to see his pu-erh tea garden. I spent several hours there, observing the graceful and efficient way that the elders harvested the tea leaves, studying the trunk structures of the ancient trees, and admiring the vibrant mosses that had grown on them. The tea trees are dwarfed by the other trees of the dense jungle, but the green of their leaves was so vibrant they still unmistakably stood out. My memory of this grove is still very vivid, from the unbelievable brightness of the blue sky, to the hyper-real songs of the different birds.
Mr. Tang blends the tea leaves from these Mengku varietal of pu’erh tea trees with leaves from the ancient Jinggu Dabai varietal. The result is a very clear and approachable pu’erh for everyday drinking, and at a very good value. Ancient Spring is smooth and sweet with stone fruit and honey aromas. It tastes very pure and has a distinct and lingering sweetness. The age of the trees and the energy of the forest come through clearly in this tea, to no surprise – it is crafted with great care, by honest people.
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|Steep time||10 - 60 sec|
|No. of infusions||8