2020 leaf plucked from 2000 meter elevation trees on Ai Lao Mountain. The leaf composition is a perfect blend of expertly plucked tips and larger leaves with very little breakage in the processing. The result is a smooth, well-rounded tea with notes of apricot, sweet hay and melon seed. These cakes can be broken up and enjoyed now, or stock op on a bamboo-wrapped tong and age it!
Plus a bonus: This year our dear friend, Amber von Nagel illustrated the wrapper for us! And extra points if you can find the typo on the wrapper ;)
Origin: Simao, China
Plucked from wild trees growing high on Ai Lao Mountain, this loose leaf shou cha is perfect as an introduction to puerh or as a refreshing breather for the afficionado. It has been sorted to include only the tips and has an effect that is clarifying and uplifting.
The first steep yields a bright and vivid infusion, with each consecutive cup reaching deeper notes of the leaf. The mineral content of the soil is prevalent in the cup with bright, energizing notes of copper, and grounding undertones of cocoa and damp earth. The liquor has a silky mouthfeel and leaves a lasting coolness in the throat, unusual for a tea of this style.
Here's a tea you won't find anywhere else. Awa Bancha is only made in one small prefecture in Japan, and is barely known even in Japan. It goes through a unique lacto-fermentation process that yields a tea like no other.
The uniqueness of this tea starts at the plucking, which takes place in the summer, when the leaves have grown large and hardened. Every leaf is stripped from the branches, so each year the whole plant re-grows and there is only one harvest each year. From there, the leaves are boiled to soften them and make them more pliable. They are then rolled, similar to an oolong, but then packed into fermentation jars, and covered with banana leaves and heavy rocks to soak in their own juices. Because the tea is harvested so late, the leaves have a higher sugar content, which increases the fermenation that occurs. About a month later, the leaves are removed and air-dried.
The result is a drink that is slightly sour, sweet, and tangy depending on how you steep it. It is incredibly versatile and can be boiled over a fire to get the medicinal properties, or steeped more delicately to extract the sweeter notes. Awa Bancha's nickname used to be "peasant's tea" because it was typically boiled and every leaf was used, unlike other teas.
The flavor is best suited for those who love pickles, sauerkraut and all things probiotic. It is great for the gut and the more you drink it, the more your body will crave its effects.