Yunnan province in China is known for its production of Pu-erh tea, a type of fermented tea that is highly sought after for its unique flavor and health benefits.
The New Six Tea Mountains
In the 300 years following the late Ming dynasty, the original Six tea mountains experienced significant changes due to shifts in China’s economy and the countries purchasing tea from the mainland. This resulted in the emergence of the New Six major tea mountains, which became the focus of tea production.
Nannuo Mountain mostly has large-leaf tea tree species, producing sweet tea with a slight, well-controlled bitterness and strong “sheng jin” (saliva-producing) properties. The tea soup has a bright, clear, yellow-orange color, and Nannuo Pu-erh tea is characterized by a clean, honey-orchid fragrance. Nannuo has a rich pu-erh tea-producing history, and it is home to a tea king tree that has been cultivated for over a thousand years.
Bulang Mountain has intense large-leaf tea tree species, which result in a strong bitterness and astringency with a quick and powerful sweet aftertaste. The tea has a unique aroma with notes of plum, nectar, and orchid, making it a collector’s item for Chinese and foreign tea enthusiasts and Pu-erh tea lovers.
Bada Mountain is rich in both cultivated tea trees and wild, large-leaf tea forests. It has a wild tea king tree that is approximately 1800 years old in Hesong village. Bada tea has a strong taste with pronounced bitterness and astringency and a lasting sweet aftertaste. The aroma is intense, with dominant plum and honey notes.
Nanqiao Mountain mostly has middle-leaf tea tree species, which grow as shrubs rather than arbor trees. The tea soup has a thin, sweet taste, and the tea grade is considered lower than other areas.
Mengsong Mountain has mostly middle-leaf, shrub-like tea plants, producing tea with a pronounced bitterness and light sweetness.
Jingmai (Huiming) Mountain
Jingmai Mountain is one of the renowned tea mountains in modern times. It has a great concentration of ancient tea tree forests, known as the “10,000 mu arbor ancient tea garden.” The tea has a bright yellow soup color with expressed astringency that outshines its bitterness. It also has strong sweetness and a prominent orchid fragrance, which this region is famous for. A parasite grows on the arbor tea tree here, commonly known as “crab feet.” Local people believe it has medicinal properties that reduce inflammation and effectively treat stomach problems and diabetes.
Pu-erh Tea Production Areas in Yunnan, China
Yunnan province in China is known for its production of Pu-erh tea, a type of fermented tea that is highly sought after for its unique flavor and health benefits. The province is divided into four main tea-producing regions, each with its distinctive terroir and signature tea-producing areas and villages.
Northwest Pu-erh Tea Production Area
The Northwest tea area is known for its abundance of ancient tea tree resources and high altitude, which has earned it the reputation of producing high-quality tea. The area is considered the birthplace of Yunnan’s big-leaf tea, and it is home to the oldest and largest cultivated tea tree in the world, located in Fengqing village. Some of the signature tea-producing areas and villages in the Northwest area include Bingdao, Xigui, Daxueshan, Bangdong, Nanpo, and Nuowu. Bingdao is the most famous of these areas and is known for producing the most expensive Pu-erh tea.
Southeast Pu-erh Tea Production Area
The Southeast tea area is surrounded by three rivers and has a mild, pleasant climate, and a suitable environment for growing tea. The tea produced here is characterized as “soft,” with a fragrant aroma and a smooth entrance. This area includes the six ancient tea mountains and is the starting point of the ancient tea-horse road. Some signature tea-producing areas in the Southeastern area include Yiwu, Youle, Geden, Yibang, Mangzhi, Manzhuan, and Mansong.
Northeastern Pu-erh Tea Production Area
The Northeast tea area has scattered and scarce tea trees, mostly middle and late-harvest species due to its natural environment and high altitude. The temperature difference between day and night greatly improves the quality of tea leaves, resulting in an expressed bitterness. Some signature tea-producing areas in this region include Qianjiazhai, Zhenyuan, Wuliang, and Jinggu.
Southwestern Pu-erh Tea Production Area
The Southwestern area of Yunnan is known for its gentle mountains, lower altitudes, and humid natural environment, making it the perfect place for tea tree growth. The soil in this area is first-class and high-quality, making it ideal for tea growing. The tea from here is characterized by “three highs and one low” (i.e., high content of tea polyphenols, high content of alkaloids, high content of water extracts, and low in amino acids). Some signature tea-producing areas in the Southwestern region include Banzhang, Naka, Jingmai, Bulang, Nannuoshan, Bada, Menghai, and Pasha.
In summary, Yunnan province has four main tea-producing regions, each with its unique terroir and signature tea-producing areas and villages. The Northwest, Southeast, Northeast, and Southwestern regions each have their strengths and contribute to the overall diversity and richness of Yunnan Pu-erh tea.
The Secret Behind the Unique “Menghai Flavor” of Shu Pu-erh Tea
Menghai is a region known for its distinct flavor of Shu Pu-erh tea, which can be identified by experienced tea professionals simply by tasting it. But what makes this flavor so unique?
It turns out that the soil in Menghai is composed of a specific type of white sandstone that contains not only minerals but also a variety of beneficial bacteria that are unique to the region. As underground water flows through the sandstone, it accumulates these minerals and bacteria, which then contribute to the unique flavor of the tea.
During the fermentation process of cooked Pu-erh tea made with this water, the distinct “Menghai flavor” is developed. So if you’re looking to try a truly unique and authentic Shu Pu-erh tea, look no further than Menghai.