Ancient Snow Shan Big Leaves Sheng Pu Erh Tea
Origin and special features
Ancient Snow Shan Big Leaves Sheng Pu Erh Tea is an unripened “hei cha” from ancient tea trees in the North Vietnamese province of Ha Giang. As the name already tells, only large leaves are picked for this tea – of course, by hand.
Like all teas from our producer partner in Ha Giang, the processing of Ancient Snow Shan Sheng Pu Erh tea is according to ancient artisan tradition. Accordingly, most of the processing is done by hand, with the aid of few mechanical devices only. And just like other teas from this producer, their Pu Erh or Hei Cha teas do not need to shy the comparison with their counterparts in neighboring Yunnan. On the contrary, both infusion and unfolded tea leaves reveal a superior picking and processing quality that has become rather rare in China today.
In addition to a personal passion for tea and almost unparalleled quality standards, the close-to-nature cultivation of the ancient tea trees – and their offspring – is another cornerstone of our producer partner’s philosophy. Accordingly, the tea trees grow in their widely natural, biodiverse environment. This also explains the particularly high taste and active substance content of Ancient Snow Shan teas.
Ancient Snow Shan Tea Tree
Taste and Effects
Compared topickings with a higher ratio of buds, the big leaves picking standard favors a strong earthing. Accordingly, pronounced earthy and mineral notes dominate this tea’s taste body. However, soon after hitting the taste buds, the liquor will effect an intense, long lingering sweetness. Ultimately, the overall taste impression reflects the essence of the land and sky under which the tea trees thrive.
As with the ginseng root, the older the tea tree, the more nutrients and active ingredients its leaves contain. This is evident in the immediate effects of Ancient Snow Shan Sheng Pu Erh tea. Muscle relaxation and skin warming are noticeable physical effects right after consumption. At the same time, Ancient Snow Shan Sheng Pu Erh tea has a refreshing effect on the spirit and soul. And the never ending array of tasty infusions is just another testament to this tea’s tremendous power.
“Pu Erh” Tea from Vietnam – Trees Know No Borders
In Yunnan, the production of Pu Erh tea is evident for more than 2000 years. However, there have been slight variations in the details of processing through the ages. In neighboring North Vietnam, the art of processing Pu Erh tea could be just about as old. This is because also here, tea trees have been growing since time immemorial. Accordingly, the cultivation of domestic tea trees certainly looks back on a very, very long tradition. And the same applies to the production of Pu Erh / Hei Cha tea from their leaves. And to the resulting tea culture in Vietnam.
To this end, a look at the map clearly reveals the already obvious. Namely, this would be the geographical – and geological / climatic – union of Yunnan with North Vietnam. Besides, the same applies to neighboring Yunnan countries such as Myanmar, Laos and northern Thailand. In all of these countries, tea trees have also been growing since ancient times.
However, Ancient Snow Shan Pu Erh tea comes with a regional peculiarity. That is, the “Man Hao Tra” or “Ancient Snow Shan” tea trees native to the “Tay Con Linh” mountain region in the north of the Vietnamese province of Ha Giang are a tea tree variety of its own. As a result, green, black and Pu Erh teas from these trees show highly individual, distinct flavor profiles.
What is Pu Erh Tea – “Cha Pu Erh” vs. “Hong Cha”
Basically, there are two criteria for defining a dark tea or “hei cha”. One of these would be the origin of the tea leaves from large-leaf tea trees. Second basic condition is the characteristic processing method of “dark tea” or “Hei Cha. And thirdly, what makes a Hei Cha a “Pu Erh” tea is the tea trees being located in Yunnan. At this, the latter criterion could even have further restriction to the region around the city of Pu Erh.
Production of a Pu Erh Tea Cake
To process the freshly picked leaves, one first spreads them on large, round bamboo trays. These allow for space-saving yet airy storage on shelves in the shady interior of the tea factory. Here, the tea leaves are left to wither for a while, with occasional turning and shaking.
The next processing step serves to stop the natural oxidation processes in the tea leaf through heat feed.
Then, again under heat feed, a hand rolling process brings the tea leaves in their characteristic curly shape. After this, the leaves undergo complete drying outdoors in the sun.
Subsequently, the resulting dry “Maocha” is pressed in the characteristic flat cake (or brick) shape by means of a special mechanical pressing device.
Types of Pu Erh Tea / Hei Cha – Sheng Pu Erh Tea and Shou Pu Erh Tea
There are 2 basic types of Pu Erh or Hei Cha tea, Sheng Pu Erh tea and Shou Pu Erh tea. At this, Sheng Pu Erh tea is the direct product of the below processing steps. described below. In contrast, the method of processing the “Maocha” to Shou Pu Erh tea is still a relatively new invention. This was developed in the 1960s, in order to accelerate the time-consuming ripening process of Pu Erh tea. Accordingly, the resulting process limits the ripening period to a minimum through cutting off air feed, while periodical adding moisture. Thus, after a few weeks only, the result is relatively close to that of decades of natural ripening.
Therefore, if a Pu Erh tea goes as “aged,” we’re talking about a Shou Pu Erh tea. Now, this doesn’t mean that a Sheng Pu Erh tea wouln’t undergo ripening processes. However, it means that a Sheng Pu Erh tea – usually – will be many years away from achieving a comparable level of ripeness. Of course, there are Pu Erh tea collectors, whose private storage has Sheng Pu Erh teas that have been ripening for decades. And there are suppliers who specialize in the storage and supply of naturally ripened Pu Erh teas… As a result, the Pu Erh tea market is a world of its own, amidst the infinite world of tea.
The “Ripening” Process in a Sheng Pu Erh Tea Cake
Accordingly, the Pu Erh tea cake is not complete in terms of being an “as is” product. Rather, as a result of its specific processing, there is a potentially infinite ripening process taking place in the Sheng Pu Erh tea cake. The enzymatic activities associated with “ripening” lead to a constant change in the active ingredients of the tea leaves comprising the cake. And each change in the active ingredients and their composition will effect a change in the resulting tea’s taste.
Consuming a Sheng Pu Erh Tea Cake
Accordingly, having some of a Sheng Pu Erh tea is always just a snapshot, while the cake is always a kind of “artwork in progress”. This also explains why Pu Erh tea lovers often prefer buying a whole cake of their favorite Pu Erh teas. After all, that’s 357 grams, which you just won’t use up that quickly… Much rather, you’ll enjoy that tea time and again, over the years, always curious about the current state of your tea. And always up for the surprises a Sheng Pu Erh tea will offer through the ages, in the form of new taste nuances and developments. Plus, of course, your Sheng Pu erh Tea will never ever be “too old”, or even “expire” at all.
Preparing Pu Erh Tea
One rule is to always infuse a Shou Pu Erh tea with boiling hot water. However, there are variations in tempering, when it comes to preparing Sheng Pu Erh tea. In particular, newcomers to the field of Pu Erh tea, will often find a Sheng infused at 100 ° C was too harsh in taste. One way to counteract this, of course, is always to shorten the infusion period. Howeer, more – and more intriguing – nuances will be elicited from the Sheng Pu Erh tea through lowering the infusion temperature. Thus, at 90 ° C, the Sheng Pu Erh tea will not only be smoother, but also more complex in taste.
As for recommendations on the infusion time of a Pu Erh tea, there’s quite a criss-cross through sources. This is because there is no such thing as THE infusion time for a Pu Erh tea. To this end, the traditional Chinese “Gong Fu Cha” approach of infusing a pu erh tea over several very short infusions provides wonderful ways for exploring one’s individual preferences.
Once you’ll be a bit more familiar with specific Pu Erh tea, you might at times prefer to infuse it western-style. This means, with longer infusion time, but less infusions, possibly even just one, long steep. We recommend infusing Sheng Pu Erh teas rather short, in the range 1/2 – 2 minutes per infusion, depending on the dosage. A mellow, smooth and oily Shou Pu Erh tea, on the other hand, might steep for 2 – 5 minutes, again depending on dosage.
“Washing” or “Waking” of the Tea Leaves
Both in China and the West, subjecting a Pu Erh tea to a “washing” steep is quite common. Alternatively, this very first infusion is often referred to as “waking the tea leaves”. At this, the tea leaves are first poured over with bubbly hot water (about 100 ° C). However, this is drained again after very few seconds and finally disposed of. Where this is done, the first infusion intended for drinking is the following infusion.
Accordingly, our preparation recommendation for Ancient Snow Shan Sheng Pu Erh Tea:
At first, break about 4g of tea leaves off the cake and place in a 200ml clay teapot. There are other options, but clay is best. It is even recommendable to establish and maintain a clay teapot that you’ll use for pu erh teas only.
After waking the tea leaves, pour hot water once again. Actually, your water should have slightly cooled down in the meantime. So, it will have about 90° C now, which is just about perfect for a smooth, complex Sheng Pu Erh tea. After 1-2 minutes, enjoy, then resteep at will. For subsequent infusions, pay attention to significantly reducing your infusion period compared to your first steep. Once you notice that the taste subsides, increase the infusion period again for more tasty infusions.
For more information and illustrations on tea from Vietnam and Ancient Snow Shan Teas, please also read our relevant blog article: