Xiengkhouang Honey Hill Sheng Pu Erh Tea

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Kinnari’s “Honey Hill” is a youngunripened Pu Erh tea from ancient tea trees in Xiengkhouang, Laos. There, on Phousan mountain, the tea trees are still widely growing in their natural, biodiverse enviroment today. Even picking (1+2) and processing are still all done by hand in Xiengkhouang. The tea’s taste is characterized by sweet and poignant notes, reminiscent of honey and dried fruit, jacketed by a slightly astringent mineralic-green aura.

For more information and illustrations, please refer to the detailed product description below.

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Description

Unripened (sheng) Pu Erh Tea from Xiengkhouang, Laos

Kinnari’s ‘Honey Hill’ – ‘sheng’ Pu Erh Tea from Xiengkhouang, Laos

Origin

As the name already indicates, Pu Erh tea comes from the region of Pu Erh in Yunnan. In a stricter sense, only teas coming from there and being processed according to the Pu Erh method may go by the name of Pu Erh tea. In China, similarly processed teas coming from other places go by the designation of “dark tea” (chin. “hei cha”) instead. At this, the limitation does not only serve the protection of the geographical origin, but also guarantees that the tea comes from the propere von der “richtigen” Teebaum-Varietät kommt.

Map of Kinnari tea tree areas in Xiengkhouang and Bolaven Plateau in Laos

(click picture to enlarge)

Well, apart from minor differences in “terroir”, the tea trees native to Xiengkhouang are principally identical with those of Yunnan. Therefore, our partner in Laos, Kinnari Tea, has paired the the local mountain tribes’ processing tradition with own competences and highest quality standards. The result is a Laotian ‘sheng’ Pu Erh tea that doesn’t fall back behind the best of its Yunnanese siblings. Just like some other countries bordering Yunnan, such as Myanmar, Vietnam and north Thailand, Laos is a genuine “cradle country” of the tea tree.

Unripened (sheng) Pu Erh Tea from Xiengkhouang, Laos

(click picture to enlarge)

Picking and Processing

Picking standard for Honey Hill Sheng Pu Erh Tea is 1+2. This means, only the young bud at the end of each branch and its two adjacent youngest leaves qualify for picking. At this, not only the picking, but also the larger part of processing is still done by hand until today in Xiengkhouang. Only this way, the generations-long experience of the tea farmers here together with Kinnari’s high quality requirements can create a true artisan tea.

Drying "White Moonlight Buds" and " Honey Hill Sheng Pu Erh Tea" in Xiengkhouang, eastern Laos.

Drying tea leaves – white “Moonlight Buds” and “Honey Hill”sheng Pu Erh Tea

Natural cultivation in biodiverse environment

Apart form the artisan processing, Xiengkhouang Honey Hill lives from the natural, biodiverse environment, in which the tea trees grow. At this, their roots, reaching meters-deep into the soil, bring to bear the terroir’s whole wealth in the tea plant. And in the resulting tea! Because you can feel this wealth with all of your senses.

Unripened (sheng) Pu Erh Tea from Xiengkhouang, Laos

(click picture to enlarge)

The Tea – Honey Hill Sheng Pu Erh Tea

Kinnari’s Honey Hill ist ein junger ungereifter Pu Erh Tee aus Xiengkhouang, Laos. Dort wachsen auf dem Berg Phousan Teebäume einer großblättrigen Varietät mit voluminösen, silbrig glänzenden Knospen. Bereits in alter Zeit war es Brauch, diese einmal jährlich für den chinesischen Kaiser zu pflücken. Dann gerieten die alten Teebäume in Vergessenheit… und erfuhren erst mit den jüngeren Bestrebungen der Subsistenz des Opiumanbaus in der Region durch andere Feldfrüchte  neue Aufmerksamkeit.

Tea production in Xienkhouang, Laos

Unlike green tea, Pu Erh tea is not roasted in processing, but spread to dry in the sun instead. At this, enzymatic and microbiological activities introduce a slow fermentation process. This way, just like cheese or wine, unripened Pu Erh teas can ripen over years and decades. During that time, they will develop the distinct and complex that is characteristic for Pu Erh tea. However, our Honey Hill sheng Pu Erh tea is still at an early stage of that ripening process. During this stage, the tea’s taste is coined by sweet and poignant notes, reminiscent of honey and dried fruit, jacketed by a slightly astringent mineralic-green aura. While the former particularly prevail in the first infusions, the later will increasingly dominate follow-up steeps.

Unripened (sheng) Pu Erh Tea from Xiengkhouang, Laos

(click picture to enlarge)

Preparation

The number of infusions and their individual timings are one decisive factor for the taste profile of the resulting tea. While shorter steeps will emphasize the round and the sweet, longer infusion periods shift the scale towards the green and mineral notes.  The same applies to the choice of water temperature: the hotter, the rougher. For adjustment to personal preferences, experimenting in the range starting from 85°C upwards will be a rewarding strategy.

As a starting point, pour 200-250ml hot water over 4g of Honey Hill Sheng Pu Erh Tea. Then let infuse for 2-3 minutes for a first infusion. You can gradually increase temperature and steeping period over a series of follow-up infusions. At this, heat and prolonged steeping will emphasize the astringent momentum. “Play” with this tea, in order to establish your personal taste preference, and you will be surprised of the bandwidth of flavors within Xiengkhouang Honey Hill Sheng Pu Erh Tea.

Tip: Shortly “awaken” the tea leaves before the actual infusion. This means, pour some hot water first over the tea leaves first, but empty this water from the tea pot immediately again.

Biodiverse Tea Garden, Bolaven Platea, Laos

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.

Biodiverse Tea Garden, Xiengkhouang. eastern Laos

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 information about the history, background and philosphy of Kinnari Tea, please read my pertaining article in Siam Tea Blog:

Laos, Kinnari Tea – Handpicked and Processed Arbor Teas from Biodiverse Cultivation

Xiengkhouang, east Laos

Xiengkhouang – Reservoir of Wild Ancient Tea Trees in Eastern Laos

Xiengkhouang is a province in the east of Laos, not far from the border to Vietnam. Apart from the stunning landscape, what makes the mountainous region with altitudes up to 2500 meters so interesting is its wealth of ancient tea trees. In Xiengkhouang, these have been growing and propagating the natural way through their seed from time immemorial. This way, “tea gardens” have emerged that are rather reminiscent of biotopes than of agricultural production land.

Xiengkhouang, Ost-Laos - Nam Piang

The tea plants greatly benefit from the harmonious interaction of numerous types of plants, animals and insects populating their habitat. Other than with “clones” (raised from cutoffs), the roots of tea trees raised from the seed reach meters deep into the soil. This way, the plants enjoy the full natural input from their terroir. To this adds the balance prevailing in an ecosystem, paying respect to the “existential interests” of all its stakeholders. As a result, the need for artificial fertilizing and means of pest control.

Xiengkhouang, east Laos

Unlike the bordering Vietnam – or China – Laos does not have a national tea culture in the proper sense. Nevertheless, the picking and processing of the native tea trees’ leaves are an integral part of the local mountain tribes’ tradition. Reconciling this tradition with highest quality, environmental and social standards and complementing it with a high level of professional competence is the secret of Kinnari Tea.

Xiengkhouang, east Laos

Additional information

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Weight

25g, 50g, 100g

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