This distinctive Muong Khuong Purple Rain wild green tea comes from Muong Khuong, Lao Cai Province in the Northeast of Vietnam. It is a very true wild tea, which is plucked and processed entirely by the Hmong ethnic families. The Hmong ethnic group started immigrating to this area of Vietnam from the 18th century and came from Southern parts of modern day China, including from Yunnan. As they travelled south they brought with them tea processing techniques and knowledge from China. Traditional teas produced by ethnic groups in Vietnam tend to have some similarities to popular Chinese teas due to similar processing methods employed. April 2018 harvest.
This tea is plucked by hand from wild tea trees that grow in the forests around Muong Khuong at an altitude of around 1,600 metres. It is a long trek to find the trees in the forests but the local hill people make the trek every day during the picking season to these magnificent ancient tea trees (Camellia sinensis var. assamica). The trees themselves are indigenous to these forests and grown completely wild and under organic conditions. As they are left untended, they grow up to 3 metres tall with trunks a few metres in diameter. Some trees are very ancient, with many being centuries old and some purportedly dating back 800 years.
The Purple Rain name for this tea comes from the colour of the young leaves. When plucked many have a purple hue to them which is the result of this specific terroir. This tea is produced almost entirely by hand using very limited technology. The freshly plucked leaves are baked in an oven fired by longan wood, rolled and dried several times until considered finished. This process is carried out by Mr Chiu, in a very small quantity, and relies entirely on his knowledge and expertise.
The flavour profile of this tea is somewhat similar to a young sheng (raw) pu-erh tea. The dry leaves are twisted, wiry and green in colour. The liquor produced is light yellow in colour with a slightly smokey aroma of vegetables and sweet spices. It has a very complex savoury taste reminiscent of earthy green vegetables, kombu seaweed and exotic mushrooms with a hint of smoke. A very unusual cup with an extremely delightful complexity.
This Muong Khuong Purple Rain wild green tea is best brewed at 80°C for 1 minute and should be brewed multiple times. When experimenting with repeated steepings, you can gradually increase the water temperate and steep time to extract fuller flavour.
You can read a short independent review of this tea on The “Once In A Lifetime Experience” Club.