From leaf to Mao Cha
The tea trees grow naturally in a preserved environment, in altitude, in small “gardens”, and far from intensive plantations. In theory, they are not chemically treated (neither fertilizer nor pesticides).
The constitution of the leaves and the exposure of the trees naturally avoids most diseases.
Most of the tea farmers respect these big trees that are part of their heritage, and are a testimony of their history. But sometimes, faced with the growing demand in China, the temptation to produce more is strong. We remain very vigilant : the preservation of the tea trees and their environment is a major criterion for our choices.
The leaves are harvested twice a year, during spring and autumn. The spring harvest is the most sought after, since the leaves are picked at the end of the dry season and may be therefore richer in flavour. But experience demonstrates that one can also find very good autumn teas. The best harvests consist of a bud and a leaf, or a bud and two leaves, very rarely a bud on its own.
Once picked, the leaves are spread out for a few hours in the shade or the sun. They begin to wilt. Then they are briefly heated in a wok, over a gentle wood-burning fire This process, called “ killing the green” or “Sha Qing” in Chinese, halts the oxidization in the leaves and partly removes some humidity. Then they are hand-rolled (some farmers also use machines). This breaks up the cell walls and kick-starts post-fermentation.
They are then put in the sun to dry. This stage is particularly important as it maintains intact all the intrinsic qualities and starts off natural post-fermentation. This is mainly why the government of Xishuangbanna has decided it to be one of the criteria authorizing the “Pu’Er” denomination. At last the tea is carefully sorted. The stems and broken leaves etc... are removed. The raw Pu’Er tea, then called “Mao Cha”, is ready to be pressed or again put to mature as loose leaves.
To produce Ripe Pu'Er, Mao Cha is piled safe from the air, in a naturally moist environment. The fermentation starts quickly and lasts about 45 days. Finally the leaves are dried and sorted again.
To see the making of the Mao Cha of our “Six Mountains” cakes, please follow this link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noxsyFq9KK8