Purple Cloud is a white tea crafted from leaves of the Zi Ya 紫芽, or “Purple Bud,” varietal of tea trees. Purple Bud is a Yunnan Big Leah varietal of pu’erh known to grow in more sunlight and higher temperatures than other pu’erh trees. On account of the extra sunlight they receive, Purple Bud trees contain significantly higher anthocyanin in their developing leaves than other varietals. The high levels of anthocyanin causes their buds to emerge a deep purple colour, before turning green as they mature.
These trees were planted by Tang Wang 16 years ago in his tiny tea garden in Jinggu, Yunnan. In 2006, Tang Wang decided to take a break from his corporate job in the big city, Kunming. He rented a small place in rural Yunnan, where his only intentions were to read, reflect, and drink tea with friends. In one of these unpurposed conversations an old friend, Li, suggested that Tang grow tea in his 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.
Mr. Tang had never grown or made tea prior to 2006. His first tea master was a large book called “Technical Questions and Answers on Organic Tea Production and Management.” As Tang studied, he also gained experience: he and his friend Li planted every tea tree with their own hands. Eventually neighbouring villagers came to help and offer tips on the cultivation and management of tea trees. In many ways, Tang and Li’s venture was experimental and that spirit carries forward into the types of tea Mr. Tang crafts.
In the past it was most common for the leaves of Purple Bud trees to be used to make black tea. It is still unusual, and very captivating, to see the Purple Bud leaves crafted as a white tea.
Tang harvests his Purple Buds as one bud and two or three leaves early in the spring, when the leaves are soft and rich in substance. After harvesting they are spread thinly on bamboo mats and naturally withered indoors. The density of this tea makes the withering process particularly long, usually happening over the course of a week. The slowness with which the tea withers means that the active enzymes in the leaves undergo gradual oxidation and hydrolysis without being damaged. Once the leaves are between 80 and 90 percent dry the leaves are roasted over charcoal for 6 hours. Then the tea is left to sit for 2 weeks, before being pressed into a cake.
True to its hybrid nature, the tea shows characteristics of both white tea and pu’erh. It has all of the intense sweetness of a white tea, with the depth and downward-pull of a high quality pu’erh. There is a violet note to this tea if you are looking for traces of its purple origin, laid on top of the taste of burnt sugar.
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|Steep time||10 - 60 sec|
|No. of infusions||8