When I started this challenge, I have come up with 7 categories and hei cha (dark tea) was not one of them. Instead, I went with pu-erh which is the most common and well-known dark-tea. I tried dark tea before but was not impressed, I thought pu-erh is already a great tea and it deserves its own category.
While I do not think I was wrong about pu-erh, I was wrong about hei cha! This discovery is thanks to this aged tea from Anhui.
Like pu-erh, other types of dark teas were used to be produced to address the demands from Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Inner Mongolia. Apart from the famous Yunnan province, dark tea is mainly produced in Sichuan, Hunan, Hubei and Guangxi provinces. My sourcebook does not mention Anhui which surprises me.
The history of dark tea production dates back to the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). The general processing of dark teas is as follows:
Leaf plucking --> fixation --> twisting --> pile fermentation --> drying
Similar to pu-erh tea, other types of dark teas are also pressed into bricks and other shapes to make their transportation easier. Liu An is typically pressed into bamboo baskets and traditionally a piece of bamboo wrapping is also added when steeping this tea.
This tea comes from Liu An (a brand which is known as its superior quality) and has been aged in natural Taiwanese environment for 16 years. Unlike pu-erh, this tea is made out of a small leaf variety of Camellia Sinensis.
I was so surprised how similar the taste of this tea was to a fine shu (fermented) pu-erh. Yet, it was cleaner with delicate woody (possibly bamboo) notes. I am excited as I feel like I discovered a new world of tea. I am looking forward to trying more hei cha going forward.
Source: Hong Li, Tea and Tea Set, China Intercontinental press, World Culture Books
Type: Dark tea
Origin: Sun Yi Shun Factory, Liu An, Anhui Province
Harvest time: 2002
Leave colour: Dark brown
Liquor colour: Bright amber
Tea aroma: Earthy
Tea taste: Full-bodied, yet sweet and clean with woody notes
Steeping/brewing: You can use around 100°C water temperature and brew for up to one minute in gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.