Bang Dong "San Ke Shu" Single Grove Raw Purple Pu-erh Tea Dragon Balls
This year we were very lucky to be able to get about 4700 grams of tea from three very old purple leaf (紫茶) trees growing near Bang Dong village in Lincang. First flush tea was picked over the period of about 2 weeks. After processing into mao cha and harmonizing (the teas picked on different days are all blended together), the tea leaves were steamed and hand-rolled into 7 gram dragon balls by my mother-in-law and father-in-law (Xiao Yao's mom and dad).
Each wrapper is hand-stamped and there are 10 dragon balls in each caddy, for a total of 70 grams of tea.
The tea brews up a thick full-bodied tea soup that is incredibly complex. Sweet, bitter, lightly floral with umami and the slightest feeling of brine. Steeps many many times! An incredibly balanced tea with strong cha qi!
These Dragon Balls were made by my mother in-law and father-in-law. They make them in their spare time. They use little pieces of cotton to compress them instead of saran wrap. Saran wrap compression is the most common method because it's faster, but it causes off gassing into the tea since the tea must be steamed to soften and is very hot. We use cotton, which is safe.
For more information on Purple tea read below:
Yunnan pu-erh tea grows in the superior environment of low latitude, high altitude South Asian tropics and achieves many qualities of superior tea. Among pu-erh tea, purplish red bud tea is particularly valued.
During the hot, humid summer and fall seasons a portion of tea tree buds are purplish red colored. The source of the color is anthocyanin, which changes color along with cell sap acidity. High levels of acidity lead to red color, while medium acidity is more purple, and high alkalinity tends toward indigo. Purplish red tea results from an inherited reaction to unfavorable hot and humid summer environmental conditions, providing the tea tree with a mechanism for fighting scorching ultraviolet rays.
Pu-erh tea growing areas tend to be between 1000 and 2000m elevation. According to surveys, higher altitude tea growing areas receive as much as 8 times the ultraviolet light of lower altitude growing areas. During the dry spring tea season, the atmosphere tends to be quite dusty which serves to reflect, scatter, and absorb most ultraviolet light. Entering into the rainy season, atmospheric dust is frequently washed away by rain. These clean, clear atmospheric conditions allow virtually all UV light reach the surface. In order to resist damage from this shortwave radiation, tea leaves produce anthocyanin, which can reflect away a portion of the UV light hitting the leaves. Although a southern Yunnan tea field during the high of the summer is a sea of green, most eye-catching are the specks of purplish-red scattered throughout. Purple bud tea trees occupy approximately 1-2% of all tea trees, and occur with varying intensities of purple.
Purplish red bud tea has throughout history been regarded as a standard for quality tea. Lu Yu in the "Cha Jing" evaluating the color of tea leaves, came to the early conclusion: "bright cliffs and gloomy forests, purple is the highest and green the second". Purple tea features prominent fragrance and rich flavor. A small number of tea trees growing on the rocky slopes of Fujian's Zhengyi mountain, because of their red color, are given the famous name Da Hong Pao. Another historically famous purple tea is Zhejiang province's Guzhu Zisun.
Purple Bud Tea, grown in high mountain ancient tea fields, is hand-picked by growers who select only young tender buds from the purple tea trees. It is solely and painstakingly processed to produce a very small quantity of heavenly tea.
Purple bud tea anthocyanin can be bitter, so it is recommended that those who do not enjoy bitter flavors reduce the strength of their brew so as to enjoy the fine tea flavor.