The second place we have visited on our journey for maocha was the area of Jingmai. It was not our first visit there and we coordinated our arrival via telephone so that we could start harvesting maocha immediately.
The Jingmai area is among the oldest tea areas and, these days, among the places with large amount of "gu shu" tea trees. The history of Jingmai villages is longer than 1400 years, however, there are no known trees coming from the time of the village origins.
According to the records of local buddhist temple, tea harvesting started around 1300 years. Two oldest tea trees have disappeared in the half of the last century - one being chopped down in 1956 in the Mangjing village, the other one burning in a big fire in Jingmai Da Zhai in 1976.
Nevertheless, the tea trees in Jingmai are generally rather old, compared to other areas. Many trees are 700-800 years of age and 300-400 years old trees are quite common. All of the small leaf, middle leaf and big leaf varietal of tea are present. The altitude is up to 1700 meters above sea leve, the average altitude being 1400 meters above sea. The gu shu tea trees grow in the area 23 000 mu large (1mu, 1亩 = 666 square meters) in the area of ten villages. The largest and best known is Jingmai Da Zhai, another well known village is Mangjing..
One of the highest trees, not harvested for many years due its height.
The total yearly production of gu shu tea trees in Jingmai is, in optimal conditions, up to 500 tons of dry material. Most gu shu trees are 2-8 meters high, some trees we have visited with local people were 14-15 meters high.
The village Jingmai Da Zhai is the most sought after due its characteristic taste, especially of trees from the peak of Da Ping Zhang. Opposed to the second well known village of Mangjing, the taste is more complex and the bitterness transforms faster to sweet aftertaste. Even though the people of Mangjing say that their tea trees grow in much wilder areas (which we confirmed in person) and even though the material from Manghing is half the price of Da Zhai, the taste is really very bitter and as our production will mostly go to drier storage areas, we have chosen the material from Da Ping Zhan in Jingmai Da Zhai. The situation may be different with autumnal maocha of Mangjing and if conditions of tea are good in this autumn, it will be a challenge to us.
The Jingmai Da Zhai village is inhabited by Dai people, related to thai tribes. Most villages are inhabited by Bulang people, who planted the ancient tea gardens many years ago. Further minorities are Hani or Wa.
Buddhist temple in Jingmai Da Zhai:
The material for our cake has been picked on the 26th and 27th of March, from two places near each other, from two families. We have spent both days with the families, picked the leaveswith them and overseen their choice of tea trees. We wanted to be really sure about the harvested leaves as we decided to go for a selected material, for which we paid more than for "normal gushu" (picked from all the trees in the garden with certain, even though small, occurence of younger trees, e.g. of 50 years - we don't think that such material should be declared as pure gushu).
The days spend among the old tea trees were really beneficial. In both days, we, with our teamaker, bought the harvested leaves from the two families and drove away to process the material in the village. The family of our friend and creator of our maocha makes living by making tea for generations, as most Jingmai Da Zhai families do. Our teamaker was mastering his work with wok for two years in one of menghai tea factories. The work with wok is one of the most important parts of maocha processing. His approach to tea making and doing everything by hand - even rolling - were a further step to a succesful product.
Before the material was rid of "huang pin" - yellow leaves - we visited some other localities and villages.
The maocha travelled with us on a difficult journey through Menghai and Jinghong to the town of Yiwu where all of our cakes have been pressed.
The Jingmai gu shu cake is composed of smaller and middle-sized silver tips and leaves, mostly one tips and two leaves.
The aroma of dry material is very distinct and very attractive. Two weeks after the pressing, we have tasted the cake for the first time. Jingmai tea is generally rather strong and the good thing about high quality Jingmai is, that 6g is enough for 100ml gaiwan (I mostly use 8g when tasting sheng puerh). Many and many tasty brews may be prepared. The taste is balanced, strong, the bitterness is pleasant and quickly transforms to sweet aftertaste. The tea has full taste with typical tones of flowers and honey.
Few more photos of the cake may be found in our eshop here: Chawangshop