Aug 1, 2011

Ba Ba Cha (bundled tea, 把把茶)

It was something interesting that I would like to try. I don't know if I should call it puerh or green tea, as this traditional tea of multiple ethnic groups in Yunnan and Guizhou was not meant to be aged. But the processing of this tea is quite similar to Sheng puerh (which, some people argue, is basically a type of green tea), and many people just take it as puerh.

Historical records show that Ba Ba Cha was a tribute tea in Ming and Qing dynasties. But I guess this doesn't mean every Ba Ba Cha is at the tribute tea level. On the other hand, it doesn't mean the tea is good only when it's at the tribute tea level. After all, traditionally, most puerh was simple and cheap product that was good and enjoyable.

In recent years, I've heard of people making Ba Ba Cha with ancient arbor, even Ban Zhang tea leaves. I've never tried these products, but think such idea sounds a little unbelievable.

Traditionally, the most famous Ba Ba Cha was made with leaves of Jing Gu Big White Tea cultivar. Although called "white tea", this cultivar is quite different from the white tea cultivar from Fujian, and this tea was famous for making green tea. Nowadays, Jing Gu Big White Tea cultivar is also used to make puerh (sometimes sold for quite a high price), while some people argue this cultivar is not suitable for making puerh that is to be aged. But, the border between puerh and green tea is sometimes blurred. So it's hard to say which saying is more right than the other.

The one I tried here is a typical simple and cheap Ba Ba Cha. It's made from Nannuo autumn arbor leaves, the same leaves people use to make puerh. In my understanding, this tea was made into Ba Ba Cha mainly because it's an easy (and therefore less expensive) way of making tea.

Dry tea leaves:

Since it's a cheap tea mainly enjoyed by local blue-collar workers or peasants, I thought I would brew it the Yunnan way, instead of the gongfu style. I brewed it in a glass, and I guess I put too much tea in the glass.

It was not as harsh as I had thought, but indeed somewhat harsh. To me, the harshness is onto the stomach, but the flavor is not very bitter. It was actually a lot less bitter and astringent than I had thought, for such a crude-looking tea. I guess it's partially because the simple processing kept most leaves free of being crushed.

It's not something that blows me away. But I was glad to have tried this somewhat "exotic" tea. Besides, this simple and cheap tea indeed outperformed my expectation.

1 comment:

SimpliciTEA said...

Sounds very interesting. I didn't know that "the border between puerh and green tea is sometimes blurred." I also don't know much of anything about how puerh is processed (or, now that I think of it, much of anything, period. :p ), other than that it is processed in a way that allows fermentation to take place, and my understanding is is that that is very different than one crucial step in the processing of green tea: where oxidation is halted. Stopping oxidation also means it won't ferment, correct?

I am looking forward to trying some of this tea (no matter how it ends up tasting), since I always enjoy experiencing different aspects of a culture (as in, drinking tea that "mainly enjoyed by local blue-collar workers or peasants,...").