105 Red Tea from the old tea trees

April-May, 2012
Ban Komen village, Phongsaly province
Big, old tea trees, bud and two or three young leaves

Especially in China, this type of tea is never made out of tea leaves from old trees. There are three reasons for that.

The first of all, it is believed that the unique, natural taste of tea made from the leaves of old tea tree is best revealed when these leaves have been minimally processed. Such technology is used for making Sheng Pu-erh tea. Processing changes the taste of the tea, standardizing it. It flattens all the subtle nuances which characterize the tea by the environment in which it grew.

The second reason is a desire for efficiency in manufacturing when using this type of raw material. For example, we need to collect at least 4.5 kilos of raw tea leaves in order to make one kilogram of Sheng Pu-erh tea. We require six kilos of raw leaves to make one kilogram of Red tea. That means if, in one day, 90 kilos of tea leaves were collected from the old trees, we could produce either 20 kilos of Sheng tea or 15 kilos of Red tea. That is a significant difference.

And thirdly, the price at which we can sell Red tea is quite a bit lower than the price for decent Oolong tea or Sheng Pu-erh tea, in the Asian tea market. This is determined by local demand. People are used to the fact that Red tea is not expensive.

This past Spring, taking into account all these factors, we enthusiastically started making Red tea using leaves from the old tea trees, interested to see what would happen. The idea of producing tea impossible to buy at any tea shop in China, felt very exciting.

The harvest in May was not big, so we could only produce three or four kilos of Red tea over a week. But we were most attentive to the process and carefully followed the technology throughout the stages. We were afraid of spoiling it, but the outcome was great. Although, from a rational or economic point of view, it is not practical to make this tea, we shall continue to experiment with it for the sake of making something new and unique.

Barbara Shaw, in Oregon
06 November, 2012
"I opened the package with anticipation, wondering if this Pongsali tea would
surprise me or just be a stronger version of tea I'd tried before. My first sniff
revealed a delightful, delicate aroma with a hint of sweetness. After putting a
little tea in a strainer, I heated water to 185F and poured it through the tea, letting
the water rise in the mug to cover the tea. After about five minutes, I sniffed the steam.

It reminded me of tea I had tasted 40 years ago, quite different from the cheap
tea bags commonly seen these days. After the tea cooled a bit, I had my first taste.
MMMMM. Wow. Very good. As I sipped it, I had a feeling of indulging in a rare
luxury of real subtlety, tea as tea should be. The classic red tea will be a favorite.
The next day, a friend visited our home and I made a cup of it for her. She agreed
with me that it was exceptional. We sat in front of a warm winter fire, smiling at
each other over the discovery of this special tea."
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