Mengding Sweet Dew First Harvest
March 17, 2022
Mengding Mountain, Ya'an, Sichuan
The esteemed Mengding Mountain 蒙顶山, located in the remote city of Ya’an in the Sichuan Province, is a significant site in regards to the history of tea culture in China. The cultivation of tea on Mengding dates back more than 2000 years. The teas collected from this mountain have served as Tribute Teas to Emperors for over 1000 years, spanning five Dynasties: Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing.
Mengding Mountain is the highest mountain range in Sichuan Province. It has 5 peaks, with the highest standing in the clouds 4800 ft above sea level. Due to its altitude it receives a high amount of rain compared to other mountains, and the peaks remain covered in mist and fog all year round – Mengding is nearly always wet. This aqueous climate, combined with the unique red sandstone in its soil, make it an ideal environment for tea trees, which favour a great deal of moisture, but require good drainage. Soil like this comes very slowly, from the gradual weathering of ancient rocks – there are few undisturbed places old enough to offer such perfect conditions for tea.
The tea garden they come from is located at the highest peak of the mountain, at 4800 ft altitude. The tea trees, an heirloom varietal called laochuancha 老川茶, grow scattered between ancient temples, gigantic rocks, and towering conifer trees. The tea trees are harvested once per year in the spring, and are otherwise left to grow on their own, where they are nurtured by the constant mist, diverse growth, and the passing shadows of Mengding Mountain.
Mengding Sweet Dew was crafted in the 1960’s, as part of the revitalization of teas from Mengding Mountain. The craftsmanship took inspiration from the famous Biluochun green tea. However, Sweet Dew was not designed with regard to economy of time or effort: only the most tender one-bud-one-leaf are harvested by hand, and it takes 40,000 of these couplets to make 500g of the finished tea!
This Sweet Dew was harvested on March 17, which is the most prestigious First Harvest of the season. The newly sprouted one-bud-one-leaf’s are carefully picked by hand in the early morning, and withered on bamboo mats indoors overnight. By the next morning, the fresh tea develops the scent of flowers and green apple. The tea is then pan-fried in very small batches – 100 grams at a time – during which the tender leaves are continually flipped and rolled for a period of 8-10 minutes, slowly reducing the moisture they contain. This tea receives three rounds of pan-frying like this. After the final round, the tea is baked over charcoal to remove any of the last remaining moisture.
The finished tea leaves of Sweet Dew resemble miniature rabbit ears, covered in a layer of silvery fur. In water, they unfurl into exceptionally small one-bud-and-one-leaf couplets; they are the tiniest and most infant leaves we have seen. The tea has a bright, vivid sweetness, with notes of fresh corn, and its mouthfeel is very clean. This brightness and simplicity contribute to how refreshing it is.
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|10 - 60 sec
|No. of infusions