Nyot Ou Dragon Balls Sheng Pu Erh Tea
€12,20 – €39,90
Nyot Ou Dragon Balls is an unripened Sheng Pu Erh Tea from semi-wild growing and biodiverse cultivated tea trees in Nyot Ou district, Phongsaly province, northern Laos, pressed into spherical shape. There, the people of the local Yao mountain tribe have centuries of tradition in collecting wild tea leaves. The Kinnari Tea principles – fair trade, forest- and climate-friendly cultivation and natural growth of the tea plants from the seed – go one step further in making this tea, coined by gentle tannins as well as fresh floral and vegetal notes, a true pearl of nature.
For more information and illustration refer to the detailed product description below.
Nyot Ou Dragon Balls Sheng Pu Erh Tea – Phongsaly, Laos
Nyot Ou Dragon Balls is an unripened sheng pu erh tea from Nyot Ou district, Phongsaly province, northern Laos, pressed into a spherical shape. This tea is brought into our cups by a cooperation between SiamTeas partner Kinnari Tea and the French Committee of Cooperation with Laos (CCL). The NGO, for which Kinnari founder Anna Phayouphorn works as a consultant, runs a number of development projects on site. Among these, a project to organize and promote sustainable tea cultivation by local smallholders plays a prominent role.
Nyot Ou Dragon Balls Sheng Pu Erh Tea from Nyot Ou, Phongsaly, nothern Laos (click picture to enlarge)
As the name already tells, Pu Erh Tea actually comes from the Pu Erh region in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Strictly speaking, only teas from this region are allowed to be labeled as “Pu Erh Tea”. In turn, teas produced elsewhere using the same method are known in China as “dark tea” (Chinese “hei cha”). At this, the delimitation by name serves not only to protect the geographical origin, but also to ensure that the tea comes from the “correct” tea tree variety.
(click map to enlarge)
Nyot Ou, Phongsaly, Laos
Nyot Out district in Lao’s northernmost province of Phongsaly is just a few kilometers from the border with Yunnan. Right across that border is Yiwu, one of the Yunnan cities known for their Pu Erh tea. And only a few kilometers further we are already in the famous tea mountains of Xishuangbanna. Now, the mountains that connect China and Laos in this region know no borders. And the same applies to the up to 15 meters high tea trees that are native here and belonging to the same Assamica variety. In the subtropical forests covering the mountains of Nyot Ou, we can still find them wild. However, the farmers of the surrounding villages, inhabited by members of the local Yao ethnicity, just in recent years started creating tea gardens around their villages and planting with seeds of the wild tea trees.
At this, they receive active support from Kinnari Tea and the CCL. One focus of Anna and her colleagues’ activities is on imparting the necessary know-how for sustainable, environmentally and climate-friendly cultivation in harmony with the local ecosystem. This in turn means the natural growth of the tea plants from the seed in highly biodiverse environments.
tea gardens in Nyot Ou – semi-wild / biodiverse cultivation
The Yao Villages of Nyot Ou
The Yao mountain tribe has lived in what is now Yunnan, Laos, Myanmar and northern Thailand for centuries. In 1990 the socialist government of Laos decided on a program to relocate the Yao from their higher mountain refuges to the valley region in order to promote better connections to the national education, health and general care system. At this, it might got overlooked that the Yao farmers would not find enough suitable land there for rice cultivation, which they traditionally carried out to cover their livelihoods. As a result, many of the farmers now had to go long ways for cultivating their now far away rice fields in the mountains.
The Yao farmers of Nyot Ou have centuries of tradition in collecting wild tea leaves. And this is exactly where the development work that Kinnari and the CCL are doing here comes in. By imparting know-how and active support in matters of cultivation and processing, local smallholder ar enabled to thrive on a new cash crop, tea. At this, the natural cultivation promoted by Kinnari works without pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Thereby, it does not only benefit nature and the end consumer. Much rather, the farmers themselves and their rural communities also benefit from an intact eco-system. And from a market in China and Europe that knows how to appreciate – and honor – unspoiled natural products.
Tea Cultivation and Processing – a New Economical Perspective for Smallholders in Nyot Ou
Mr Bountong, a small farmer and resident of Ban Sehopene village, tells: “We used to pick tea leaves in the forest to exchange them for salt with the inhabitants of the plain of Outaï” (note: capital of Nyot Ou). “We did not have a tea garden back then. I remember getting a chicken for a whole sack of tea leaves.”
Today Mr. Bountong and his wife are cultivating over 2 hectares tea gardens of their own. And process their leaves by themselves in their own small processing facility. Not that they had given up picking wild teas… Finally, 1kg of processed and dried tea from wild picking brings up to the equivalent of 120 euros. That is three times as much as they get for 1kg of processed and dried “garden tea”. However, the additional earnings from their own tea gardens and processing facility earn them quite a handsome income by local standards.
(click pictures to enlarge)
The picking of tea leaves for Nvot Ou Dragon Balls Sheng Pu Erh Tea complies with the classic 2+1 picking standard. That is, only the young bud at the end of each branch and the two youngest leaves adjacent to it qualify for plucking. The picking time for premium qualities are the (spring) months March to May. As a matter of course, not only the picking, but also most of the processing is still manual work in Nyot Ou. Only this way the tea farmers’ generations of experience and the high quality requirements of Kinnari can jointly create a real artisan tea.
After picking, the tea leaves are spread out on large round bamboo trays for a few hours. While withering, the tea leaves lose a considerable part of their moisture. After several hours, they undergo heating in a large wok pan to stop the enzymatic oxidation processes in the tea leaf (“shaqing”). Upong the shaqing (also: “kill green”) follows the rolling of the tea leaves – by hand – using mechanical force. The subsequent sun drying is one of the most important – and defining – features of pu erh tea processing. That is, the preceding processing steps are widely similar to the processing of green tea or (partially) the processing of white tea. For example, the final drying of green tea takes place in an oven instead.
In addition to the skillful processing, Nyot Ou Dragon Balls Sheng Pu Erh Tea lives from the natural, biodiverse environment in which the tea trees thrive. In contrast to “clones” grown from cuttings, the roots of the seeds of tea trees extend meters deep into the ground. As a result, the harmonious interplay of an ecosystem populated by numerous plant, animal and insect species brings out all the terroir’s wealth in the tea plant – and thus in the resulting tea! To this adds the balance that prevails in an ecosystem, taking into account the “existential interests” of all “participants”. This, in turn, eliminates the need for artificial fertilization and agents for pest control.
Nyot Ou Dragon Balls Sheng Pu Erh Tea – Taste and Preparation
After the withering, stopping of enzymatic oxidation processes and rolling, pu erh tea leaves dry in the sun. The resulting enzymatic and microbiological activity initiates a slow fermentation process. Just like wine or chesse, unripened (sheng) Pu Erh teas can mature over years and decades to develop the fine and complex taste profile typical of ripe Pu Erh teas. However, our Nyot Ou Dragon Balls Sheng Pu Erh tea is still at an early stage of this process. During this stage, gentle tannins and fresh floral and vegetal notes shape the taste of the tea. All in all, the similarity to a Yiwu Pu Erh tea is unmistakable here. However, superior picking and processing excellence also creates a lightness and balance in the young Nyot Ou Sheng Pu Erh tea that has become rare in Yunnan today.
“Gong Fu” Method
The Gong-Fu method is most recommendable for the preparation of sheng pu erh tea. That means, the preparation over a series of infusions of comparatively short steeping times. The number of infusions in a series and their respective duration are decisive for the taste and effect profile of each individual infusion. While shorter infusions emphasize the roundness and sweetness, longer infusion times emphasize the green and mineral notes. The same applies to the choice of water temperature: the hotter, the rougher. Accordingly, it is worth experimenting in the range from 70°C upwards. In order to extract all the active ingredients and flavorings from the tea leaf, the infusion temperature can be slightly increased from infusion to infusion. With this in mind, at least the final infusion should be done with bubbling boiling water (100°C).
A good starting point is 2-3g Sheng Pu Erh tea per 100ml water. First pour boiling water over the tea leaves and let steep for up to 1 minute for a first infusion. After that, select the infusion time for subsequent infusions initially a bit shorter. Once the taste appears to fade, prolong the infusion period again progressively from steep to steep. “Play” with this tea to determine your personal taste preference…
Briefly “wake up” the tea leaves before the actual infusion. That means, first pour some boiling hot water over them, but pour off again after a few seconds only. The infusion “disposed of” in this way is often also referred to as a “washing steep”. This is particularly typical for the preparation of Pu Erh tea.
Kinnari Tea – Ecological and Social Responsibility
Tea is the greatest passion of Anna and Thun, the German/Laotian operators of Kinnari Tea in Laos. This is why quality for Kinnari Tea means more than just a good leaf grade, even a lot more. Beyond the obvious properties of the tea leaf, acting responsible regarding our natural and social environment is a cornerstone of Kinnari’s quality concept. At this, goal is the highest achievable level of harmony between the company’s economic activities and all stakeholders’ interests, including nature.
Hence, paying fair prices to the actual producers in Xinghkhouang and Bolaven is only ONE manifestation of Kinnari’s quality philosophy. Beyond this, Kinnari teas come only from tea trees raised from from the seed and grown naturally. Further, Kinnari emphasizes that these tea trees grow in their natural, biodiverse environment. With this, a no-pesticides, no artificial fertilizers and no hazardous substances policy is just a mattter of course.
For detailed informaton about the Kinnari Tea story and philosophy read my pertinent article in Siam Tea Blog:
Find more Kinnari teas from Xiengkhouang, Nyot Ou (Phongsaly) and Bolaven Plateau, Laos, here:
Pictures on location : © Anthony Gueguen + Anna Phayouphorn
The unusual comprehensive and high quality illustration of tea production on site is thanks to the CCL and Kinnari Tea. For more information and background of the tea project in Nyot Ou, please also visit the following links:
25g, 50g, 100g