Jinggu Zi Ya Lao Cha Tou Shu Pu-erh (景谷老茶头) is a unique ripe pu-erh, crafted from Zi Ya purple leaves grown in Jinggu County of Yunnan Province in China. This Lao Cha Tou (Old Tea Head) takes the form of small nuggets of compressed tea leaves that are formed during wet piling, a step during the ripe pu-erh making process. Each tea head varies in size and consist of tightly compressed leaves. The resulting smooth liquor has a soft flavour with sweet, creamy and woody notes and these go on for many infusions. This batch is from the Spring 2011 harvest.
Lao Cha Tou is an uncommon type of pu-erh tea. The name literally translates as old tea head and refers to the aged nature and the shape of these nuggets. These are formed naturally during a step of ripe pu-erh tea making, known as wet piling or wo dui (渥堆) in Chinese. Wet piling involves heaping tea leaves in a hot and humid environment into large piles to achieve fermentation. In order for the leaves to ferment properly, the leaves from the bottom are moved to the top every few days. This movement of leaves as well as the hot and humid environment results in clumping together of leaves during the piling process. These clumps, or nuggets, are not used in the finished pu-erh tea so are sometimes sold separately as Old Tea Head pu-erh.
This Lao Cha Tou is made from a ‘Zi Ya’ Purple Bud (紫芽), also known as ‘Zi Cha’ Purple Tea (紫茶) varietal. It is a naturally occurring mutated purple leaf version of Camellia sinensis var. assamica and accounts for only about 1-2% of cultivated assamica tea plants in Yunnan Province. These tea plants have purple coloured tea buds and young tea leaves, which are the result of unfavourable growing conditions and act as a natural way of protecting the tender leaves from harsh ultraviolet rays. This purple leaf varietal is highly prized in Yunnan and is used mostly for pu-erh production (like our Zi Ya Purple Bud Wild Sheng Pu-erh) with some very limited black tea (like our Dian Hong Jing Mai Purple Needle) production as well.
This Zi Ya Lao Cha Tou Shu Pu-erh consists of small naturally formed nuggets of clumped together leaves that vary in size and weight. Due to highly compressed nature, we recommend brewing longer, especially on the first infusion. It produces an amber liquor that a mild rice-like aroma. The flavours are supremely smooth with a soft creamy mouthfeel and notes that are sweet, mildly woody and mineral. The aftertaste is very clean with a slightly tangy edge. This tea offers quite a unique experience while still being extremely approachable in nature.
We suggest brewing parameters of 95-100°C for 4-5 minutes according to your taste, brewing multiple times after an initial rinse of the tea heads. They do vary in size and weight, so it is best to weigh them up prior to brewing. For this tea in particular, we suggest using a larger weight of tea than normal (about 1/3 more). You can also try to carefully break up the nuggets into smaller pieces to speed up the brewing and produce stronger flavour. This tea is forgiving when it comes to brewing so can steeped for longer and with boiling water for a fuller taste. This Lao Cha Tou pu-erh withstands many infusions and is of course best suited to gongfu brewing!