老曼峨 Lao Man E 老曼峨
Written by William le 05 september 2012
Lao Man E is located in Bulang Shan, 10 km north of Bulang town and 15 km south of Lao Banzhang. This large village lays on a plateau at an altitude of 1600 m. The roads connecting the village are in poor shape, they are often impracticable during the rainy season. The village is surrounded by hills where tea trees grow quietly.
People and culture
Lao Man E is populated by the Bulang minority, this is the most populated village in the area, with 700 inhabitants. As for the Dai, Bulang people are Buddhist. Here in Lao Man E, when they are not making Puerh tea, people devote a lot of their time to worship the gods. This wealthy village is particularly faithful, the inhabitants use part of their new richness to build temples and pagodas, there are four of them in and around Lao Man E.
Bulang people have been making tea in Lao Man E for over 1300 years, they are very proud of their history. In Lao Man E, tea and buddhism fit well together; the villagers keep a traditional lifestyle, they slightly despise the fancy house of their neighbour: Lao Banzhang; many believe the quality of their soil is a reward for their devoteness. Young males serve a time as monks and old people stay several days a week in the temples to pray.
As Lao Man E Puerh tea has become very pricey, the farmers put more effort into making a perfect Mao Cha. There are no machines in this village, each step of the processing is made by hand. The Sha Qing is made at a rather low temperature, according to a Puerh tea producer, ''it takes more time for one batch, but the buds get more white and the liquor is more fragrant''.
Apart from Puerh tea, the villagers grow their own food and hunt in the remote hills of Bulang Shan. Many stories and legends can be heard about magic snakes, tigers and plants. Lao Man E has a strong culture, and tea is at the center of it.
Old tea trees grow all around Lao Man E, in a natural environment made of bamboo and tall trees that give shadow to the tea trees. There is no terrace plantations (Taidi 台地) in Lao Man E, only natural tea gardens. Many trees have been planted in the past decades, like in most of the famous mountains, the production is expected to increase as the trees grow. Lao Man E has a very rich soil, the tea trees grow faster than around Bulang town. The trees are not shaped, they grow freely and fifteen years old trees can be over 2 meters high.
The tea trees of Lao Man E grow very large leaves with thick and furry buds. There are two varietals in this area, one gives bitter tea (Ku Cha 苦茶) and the other one gives sweet tea (Tian Cha 甜茶). No pesticide or fertilizer seems to be used nowadays. Herbicide is used on some of the gardens but most of the weeds are cut by hand.
Lao Man E Puerh tea is strong and powerful. The bitterness is heavy, it should transform into sweetness after a few seconds, but not as quickly as Lao Banzhang tea. After a couple of cups, the Huigan should be very deep and intense, this is an important characteristic of Lao Man E. The astringency should be moderate. A pleasant feeling should be felt inside the mouth and in the whole body. The Bulang aroma is not explosive like Mengku or Jingmai, it is more tobacco like or slightly smoky. In Autumn 2012, we sourced tea from Lao Man E, the tea amateurs really enjoyed its moderate bitterness and fine aroma.
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