This tea was made in early spring 2014 by Yubai. It is called single trees because the fresh leaves used were picked from very old tea trees on the main plateau of Jingmai mountain. Old tea trees material o give a richer mouthfeel, with a typical oily aspect in the mouth. Another characteristic of old-growth tea is a refreshing feeling that spreads from the back of the mouth to the throat, similar to mint or camphor; this is called Huigan in Chinese. The depth and strength of Huigan is an important criterion to consider when appreciating the quality of Pu-erh tea.
There are thousands of very old tea trees on Jingmai mountain. They proved themselves tough enough to stand the test of time, withstanding once-in-a-century harsh frosts and other severe weather episodes. The protection of the forest is a determining factor in their survival through the ages, most of them grow under the shade of tall trees. It helps keep the temperatures stable and enhance biodiversity and nutrient recycling in the tea garden ecosystem.
Single trees material can be hard to source. When the Spring harvest is in full swing, many tea makers want to buy the leaves. Only family relatives or good friends can give you those precious leave. In 2014, Yubai managed to produce 40kg of single tree tea and we still have a couple of cakes in our storehouse.
As you might expect, this is not a tea for every day. It will please you most during a focused tea session, brewed over a dozen times in a gaiwan or an elegant Chinese teapot. You will be able to enjoy the honey fragrance of Jingmai mountain slowly built for you in the ancient tea gardens. The Huigan is long-lasting and the mouthfeel is thick. This tea is still in its young days, but signs of maturity make it different from a tea made in the year. It was stored in Puer since its pressing.
Back in the 80’s, the tea makers wouldn’t even make the difference between ancient tea gardens and conventional tea plantations; they would all be in the final blends made by state factories.
From 2003 on, the reputation of ancient tea garden leaves has rapidly increased and it is now widely acknowledged that the hundred-year-old tea gardens grow more enjoyable leaves featuring complex fragrance and energizing mouthfeel. However, you should know that ancient tea gardens are made of both old and young tea trees. The small tea trees are most of the time picked along with the taller ones, the resulting material is a mix of tea leaves coming from a wide range of tree age. In Jingmai mountain, this tea quality is called Gu Shu, literally “ancient trees”. This is a slightly misleading term since many of the trees picked are not old, only the tea gardens in which they grow are indeed ancient. On Farmerleaf, we refer to these leaves as ancient tea gardens material.
More recently, some tea buyers came up with more specific demands: they wanted only the bigger trees of the tea gardens to be picked. Some of them went as far as asking for one specific tree to be harvested. As you can imagine, this kind of small-scale harvest is an organizational challenge for the tea producers and fetches a higher price than usual “ancient tea gardens” quality.
The tea pickers can typically collect 5 to 13kg of fresh leaves out of a large ancient tea tree. This means a single tree production yield 1 to 3kg of dry tea in a flush. It is unlikely that such a small production will be pressed; it is most of the time shared among friends by the tea buyers or sold as loose leaf Pu-erh tea, also known as maocha.
When it comes to pressed single trees cakes, they consist of larger productions in which only the large trees of the tea gardens have been pressed, this is the most common type of single tree production. Since there are many large and ancient tea trees in Jingmai, such productions reach hundreds of kilograms of dried tea; our productions of such high-quality tea are more modest, in the range of 10 to 50 kg.
These productions made from one or several ancient tea trees is called “Dan Zhu”, which we translate on Farmerleaf by “single trees tea”. Single tree teas taste different from ancient tea garden material (a.k.a. Gushu). Because harvesting few trees reduces the genetic diversity you get in the cup, single trees harvests can have a wider variety of tasting profiles, and it’s possible that the result is totally different from what is expected from the tea mountain of origin.
Each tea tree has a unique taste, and only the blend of thousands of trees located on different tea gardens gives a “signature taste” to a tea mountain. Jingmai is famous for its fragrance, Bulang Shan for its bitterness, and Yiwu for its thick mouthfeel. However, it’totally possible to get a bitter Yiwu single tree production and a very sweet Bulang Shan one.
Generally speaking, single trees tea should have stronger mouth, throat and body feeling than other productions because of the age of the trees. In the case of unique tree productions, this factor is largely played out by the genetic diversity of each tree.
If dozens of trees are harvested, maybe the diversity of each tree will be diluted, the uniqueness of the tea garden will be put forward instead. The exposure to sun, slope, fertilization and soil conditions do have an influence on the taste of tea.
From our experience, it seems young tea trees have less powerful mouthfeel (a.k.a. Kougan) and throat feeling (a.k.a Huigan), yet, they appear to be more fragrant and have a different kind of bitterness. Therefore, we still consider the young trees of the ancient tea gardens as good material for our productions; they bring harmony to the tea blend.
Citing extremely old age when promoting a tea can be a good selling point, but we still believe the quality in the cup is what matters. We usually like our teas to have a balance between the nose, the mouth, and the body.
Yet, we really fell in love with the profile of this Nanzuo Single Trees tea and this is why we decided to press it under our brand this year.