毛茶 máo chá translates to "rough" or unfinished tea, and in the world of pu'er it refers to the loose tea that hasn't been pressed. Mao cha is actually the most traded and common form of pu'er you'll find when exploring the tea mountains of Yunnan, so getting acquainted with this unabashed, spindly form of sheng pu'er comes with some cool points.
This mao cha comes from our producers in Yiwu, the Hé family, and hails from the same gardens in Manzhuan as their 2020 Yiwu Manzhuan cake. We're stoked to offer Manzhuan tea any time we can get our hands on the genuine article, and the Hé family are our tried and true go-tos for curated greater Yiwu terroir teas. Manzhuan is one of the original six great tea mountains of Xishuangbanna, a group of mountains mostly in Mengla county on the eastern side of the Lancang River. These teas are revered for their legendary expansive and smooth mouthfeel as well as unique sweetness as they age.
A few more aspects worth mentioning when it comes to mao cha. Mao cha has more exposed surface area than pressed tea does, and this produces two notable differences. When it comes to brewing the tea, that exposed surface area in your brewing vessel will give the water quicker and easier access to the heart of the tea. Dial the brewing time a hair back in the initial steeps for that Goldilocks zone -- or not, if you like aggressively strong tea.
During storage and aging, the surface area of the mao cha will allow it to oxidize slightly quicker. The effects of aging your mao cha pu'er transpire a bit faster, and some would argue more evenly because it has more direct and uniform access to oxygen than pressed tea.
More on the He family: if you have checked out Jinghong Zhang's book Pu'er Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic then you are already familiar with the Hé family, as senior Mr. Hé is written about as a prominently featured tea producer that proves successful in his endeavors to retain the classic feel of the home production Yiwu tribute tea while meeting new QS standards by investing in new state of the art production facilities. See both Mr. Hé and his son (who has now taken over the business) in this episode of Jinghong Zhang's fascinating mini documentary.
Other teas from the Hé family: