In addition to our classic Jingmai Gulan, we decided to press single garden cakes. Jingmai has the largest ancient tea gardens in Yunnan and the Chinese don't have names to differenciate the tea gardens more accurately. However, the local Dai who inhabit Jingmai Mountain do have dozens of names that designate small portions of those vast gardens.
'Mang Guo' is a Dai name, it designates the gardens located South East of the village, down the slope. It's actually very close to our house and tea factory, which makes collecting the leaves very convenient. It is partly managed by Mie Ye Hen, Yubai's aunt. We have been sourcing the fresh leaves from this garden since 2011 and this year, we decided it was worth making a cake out of it.
Mang Guo has an altitude comprised between 1430m and 1390m, that means 200m lower than the main plateau of Jingmai Mountain and therefore has a slightly higher temperature. Small differences in temperature do have an influence on the tea growth cycle, the higher the temperature, the earlier tea will sprout in the season. The soil is mainly sandy, but contains more silt and clay than in the upper slopes and the plateau, this has an impact on the water and nutrient retention capacity. The soil here is clearly more fertile than in the higher gardens, somes plots are even used for growing corn and vegetables. The forest cover is dense, shade is provided by large trees whose fallen leaves bring a healthy cover to the ground.
Many of the tea trees growing in this plot have a thicker trunk than the ones you can find in the plateau, this is probably due to the higher soil fertility and temperature which induce a faster growth. It is easy to see the difference in soil properties after a rain. The soils from the upper slopes dry quickly, while the soil of Mang Guo garden stays wet for over a week. In this gardens, the teas are less likely to suffer from nutrient and water stress, however, they are more often attacked by pest and disease because of the higher temperature and humidity.
The tea is not bitter and not especially fragrant in comparison to teas from the upper slopes, yet, it has a very thick mouthfeel with a pleasant texture. It is well layered in the mouth and leaves plenty of sweetness on its path. The difference in taste is obvious compared to the teas from Da Ping Zhang plateau, it is a tea mainly enjoyed for its mouthfeel and chaqi.