Verdant Reserve Club – March
Master Han picks wild tea trees in the Qianjiazhai region of the Mount Ailao National Forest Preserve, Yunnan. He takes the utmost care to “let the leaves speak,” pressing each batch of leaves differently to bring out their best, either as a looseleaf sheng, a black tea or a pressed cake or ball of tea. After such positive reception to Master Han’s 10 year aged sheng and his wild-picked black tea, we asked him to pick something out this month himself, something that he was especially excited about.
He chose to share this younger wild picked sheng full of silver buds. Made from larger bud and leaf material compared to his aged and pressed cakes, this sheng highlights the wild nature of Master Han’s home in Qianjiazhai. Master Han is a man of strong opinions- refusing to make shu pu’er for example because he doesn’t think it suits the leaves from his plot of the forest.
We were surprised when he sent us a younger sheng for the reserve club- until we tried it. You can almost imagine standing among the wild tea trees in Yunnan just from smelling the dry leaf. When I first met Master Han, it was clear how proud he was of his home. He may be quiet, but I know that he thinks that he is making some of the best pu’er out there, a kind of pride I can respect when he backs it up by carefully tending his trees, hand picking every leaf and bud, and treating every harvest uniquely in processing.
The aroma of this tea is packed thick and concentrated. I imagine taking shelter under one of Master Han’s tea trees in the rain on a warm summer day and smelling the steam rising off the wet bark and soil.
The early steepings immediately grab my attention. If the crackled blue of Ru Kiln porcelain were a taste, this would be it. Like the coolness of stone, the sweetness of powdered sugar, and the citrus of early spring mandarins.
The next steepings introduce a creamy thick savory element closest to almond butter on wafer crackers. The mineral, citrus and nutty elements blend together in a way that feels like the taste a Dragonwell would have if it were made into an oolong.
Keep steeping this out all the way- later steeping are so soothingly sweet and smooth with a green bean heartiness that carries forward. Tasting the story of this tea change over many steepings is a prelude to the longer story ahead as this tea smooths out with age and grows darker and richer. A wonderful testament to the value of traditional wild picking and processing that Master Han is devoted to.