Snow Shan Tea (“Tuyết Shan”), a National Treasure!
Did you know that the term fermentation, when applied to tea, is something of a misnomer, as the term actually refers to how much a tea is allowed to undergo enzymatic oxidation by allowing the freshly picked tea leaves to dry? This enzymatic oxidation process may be stopped by either pan-frying or steaming the leaves before they are completely dried out. One method of classifying teas are is based on the degree of fermentation: Non-fermented and Very Light Fermentation, Semi-fermented and Fully-fermented.
Vietnamese Snow Shan Tea went through very light fermentation and it retains quite a bit of their original flavour. It can be only found in the Northwest Highlands, North Việt Nam. There are many kinds of tea such as Suối Giàng Ancient Snow Tea, Hà Giang Snow Tea, Tà Xùa Snow Shan Tea. The name of shan snow tea originates from the pure white mantle on the tea bud. Because of the pure white tea buds, it is also known as White Tea. The tea leaves are larger than Thái Nguyên tea buds and smaller than Bảo Lộc one and each green tea leaves bud contains a lot of medicinal properties. In the old times, the Vietnamese used to preferably consume tea leaves fresh without any “further” processing after picking.
Ancient Artisan Snow Shan Green Tea is handpicked from 100 + years old “Tuyết Shan” tea trees in Hà Giang province or Suối Giàng in Yên Bái province. Some trees can be over 300 years old. These ancient tea tree reserves remain the country’s most precious treasure, recognized as national heritage trees. Hà Giang is considered as the homeland of Vietnamese Snow Shan Tea where the tea plant has its origins. In here, there are still many mountains where tea grows “wild” and is harvested by the local people. Ancient organic Shan tea mountains in Hà Giang are owned by the Red Yao, Tay, Hmong tribes, please click Hill tribes of the Hmong article. These tribes live in small and peaceful villages in the upper mountains; harvest and produce their precious from generation to generation.
Due to the special climate, locals do not have to use any kind of pesticides because insects cannot develop. In the winter, there is little sunlight and fog covers the entire region. The tea buds are also covered by fog and you will feel a biting cold on the fingers when picking tea buds. The Vietnamese “Tuyết Shan” tea tree is growing up to 15 meters tall. The extraordinary strength of his trunks and buds are very big, which makes them different from other types of tea. “Tuyết Shan” tea varieties have all three factors: aroma, strong taste and blue water. The tea, from harvest until processing, is produced by manual methods of the Hmong ethnic people here, is an East Asian ethnic group in China and Southeast Asia.
Ancient “Tuyết Shan” tea trees are covered with pale moss and sometimes white mould, plus spikes, but the leaves are deep green, creating a natural beauty that everyone loves. For that reason, Suối Giàng and Hà Giang have become tourist attractions.
There are four steps to creating “Tuyết Shan” tea leaves.
First: After picking, the freshly plucked tea leaves travel to the tea factory.
Second: After an initial slow to high heat pan-roasting round, to archive the characteristic fresh and stimulating natural aroma of “Tuyết Shan” tea. Afterwards, they are spread on large round bamboo trays. They rest like around 12 hours in a cool room at cool temperatures, good ventilation and exposure to sunlight. The purpose of this process is to reduce both moisture and the content of tannins in the tea leaves and to prevent oxidation and preserve freshness.
Third: The leaves go through 3 subsequent rolling cycles. Each of these rolling cycles takes 15 minutes. To give the rolled tea leaves their final shape before undergoing another, final roasting cycle.
Fourth: The ensuing of end-drying takes place in an air dryer machine. Altogether, the drying cycle must be repeated 3-5 times, with a break of 3-6 hours after each cycle. The exact number of drying cycles varies from batch to batch, and the tea master will select the drying temperature according to the current humidity conditions.
The final taste of Ancient “Tuyết Shan” tea’s liquor reflects the fragrance of the dry leaf material, slightly minty spring breeze, and smooth floral notes.
Every year, the people here organize a ceremony to worship the ancient tea trees. However, the charm of these ancient trees has become dangerous as some people are determined to take an ancient tea tree home as a bonsai tree. The number of ancient tea trees, therefore, is declining.
Moreover, the conservation of this precious tea variety is a serious matter because tea is not a great resource of income for local people. The local authorities do not have a long-term conservation plan for this precious genetic resource.