Bhutan Ja Aum

country of origin Bhutan

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The original local Bhutanese form of tea came from the producers of Samcholing's Tea Growers' Cooperative in the Trongsa region of central mountainous Bhutan. China tea bushes, brought from neighboring Darjeeling in the 1950s, grow at an altitude of 1800 meters. The method of processing is quite rare, and the tea is unlike anything we have encountered before. This tea is most commonly drunk in Bhutan as Suja, a salted Tibetan tea with butter and milk. The classic preparation of steeping in hot water is also encountered. Dark brown to black leaves with a higher content of stems and twigs, without any signs of shaping, with a very intense woody, slightly fermented to animal scent. Dark infusion reminiscent of dark (shu) puerh with a surprisingly delicate, earthy and woody, slightly salty taste with a trace of damp autumn forest and mushrooms.

Ja-Aum tea processing process

Larger, more mature leaves including petioles and small twigs are used for this tea. These are first finely chopped immediately after harvesting and then boiled for about ten minutes. The water is salted and the leaves gradually dry in the sun for 2-3 days. The dried leaves are then boiled for about an hour in water with stirred oak ash (sometimes barley ash is used, sometimes baking soda). During this cooking, the leaves darken completely. Those wet, dark leaves are bathed in a thick layer and gradually withers over a week. During this final stage, the leaves are also undergoing a partial fermentation process.

The tradition of drinking tea in Bhutan is very old. It must be said that it has spread here from neighboring Tibet. The first references date back to the 7th century AD, but Tibetan butter tea became more popular in the 13th century. For centuries, tea was imported to the Tibetan plateau from the Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan and Hunan. If the idea of strange combination of tea, salt, butter and milk keeps you unsettled, try a bowl of hot strong tea with salt, butter and milk on a frosty morning at 4,000 meters altitude. Once it gets into your stomach, you'll be ready for the next day. Because of the occasional shortage of good tea, locals have learned to make their own tea from local plants and have also developed this specific process for processing their leaves.

Recommended preparation of Ja-Aum tea

Use 5 g of tea leaves per 0.5 l of water boiled and cooled to 95ᵒC, infuse for 2-3 minutes. Feel free to experiment with the steeping time, water temperature and the amount of tea leaves used. You can also read our articles on tea preparation and water quality. This tea can also be prepared the Asian way with multiple infusions: 5 g of tea leaves per 150 ml of water boiled and cooled to 85-90ᵒC, steep for 30 seconds. In other infusions 40, 60 and 90 seconds.

Preparation of Tibetan Suja tea: throw the tea into boiling water and brew for a few minutes, strain, add milk, butter and salt to taste.

Form: Whole Leaf Black Tea
Area: Bhutan
Estate: Samcholing
Harvest: Spring Season
Year: 2023
Country of origin: Bhutan