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Maocha of any local sort is normally consumed by the producers or farmers themselves because not only for saving the resources for finishing the tea, but also for the fresher taste. Normally maocha does not store well because of usually higher moisture content.
a slightly different kind of maocha
There is one big exception: maocha for pu'er or other post-fermented teas. Maocha in pu'ers refers to the material that is either before the post-fermentation process. In another word, they are the pre-sorted shengcha that have been air-withered like other white teas. We have a detail article about in this <link> and another one about maocha from the southeast Asia used as the raw material for puer at this <link>, so we will not repeat ourselves here.
In this tea review, we shall discuss this type of maocha from Laos.
This is entirely different from the other "lightly oxidized" teas, such as White Peony in taste and aroma. It is sharp and floral, lively and bright even when it is a few years old. Well kept, it can mature quite indefinitely. As a matter of fact, people from Yunnan used to buy from this area (and others) all these maocha for use as the material for their shengcha pu'er. They still do now after the pu'er price crash, just not in the all sweeping scale they used to. Some productions are still marketed in China as shengcha pu'er under various labels.
It's a tea hunt
Maocha from Laos tends to differ in quality extremely significantly not only from sub-region to sub-region, farm to farm, but also from one season to the next. When you get hold of a good one, it is like finding a long hidden treasure. To me, that's the best of fun in tea searching.
The landlocked southeast Asian country of Laos has not been famous for tea. However, it is here where people can still find some of the oldest living specimens of camellia sinensis variety assamica, what the Chinese call the "big leaf" variety. As a matter of fact, the landmass that is the south of Yunnan in China, north of the south-east Asian peninsula, covering parts of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, are still scattered with the ancient tea trees. It is widely believed that these areas were one of the origins of the tea plant. However, local Laos people have not developed any sophisticated way of using the plant, as have the Chinese in a wide range of tea varieties, the Thai and the Burmese using the leaves as a vegetable etc. Local Laos have only used the plant arbitrarily, until recently.
Inspired by the Chinese
Selling the materials to the Chinese to produce their puer tea has prompted the locals to understand the value of their crop. Tea production has already been developed in the south as an alternative cash crop, so the idea quickly catches on.
Laos maocha has its own charm that is entirely different from Yunnan shengcha. However, the extremely noticeable differences in horticulture environment (dramatically different mirco-climate, soil condition and local cultivars), and production skills do yield products that defy the general label of Laos Maocha.
In this review, we are speaking from our sensory report on the wild maocha from the Peak District in Xiengkhaung province.
The lightness of the body can be associated with another lightly oxidized tea, White Peony (Baimudan), but it has the crispness of a winter harvest Bouquet Phoenix oolong (Xuepian), a hint of spiciness as in a Rougui, and a tinkling floral aroma that is rare in white tea.
We think if a family of farmers can do this, it should not be impossible for more in Laos to do similar or better. Out of the 20+ samples from different areas in Laos we have tasted, there are some really nasty ones, some very promising materials for making puers, and only two other qualities on par with this batch. We think this is a gold mine of a tea source waiting its own people for making it work.