Written by our guest blogger Mel @lets.have.tea
I grew up drinking tea as most British people do: with milk and sugar. It wasn’t anything I especially enjoyed – it was just part of the daily routine. In Zambia, where we lived, the most common teas were English Breakfast and Rooibos, a herbal tea also often enjoyed with milk. It wasn’t until my late teens, when I ate at a Chinese restaurant while visiting an aunt in South Africa, that I had my very first cup of green tea.
I’ll never forget it. The taste was so gloriously crisp it was like a breath of fresh air. From then on, I ditched the milky teas in favour of green tea…bags. I didn’t experience the endless delight of loose-leaf tea until I moved to Xiamen, Fujian in my mid-twenties. And, of course, I never looked back.
The tea I’m reviewing for Isilay’s excellent blog is Xinyang black tea. This one’s really special. It’s hard to believe a tea can be naturally this sweet!
It’s almost entirely made up of exquisitely manicured single bud and single leaf pairs, which have a soft golden hue – a sign of high quality.
The tea itself is a glowing amber colour, like jewels of sap from a tree, and the texture is exceptionally smooth.
Xinyang city in Henan Province is best known for its green tea Xinyang Maojian. This black tea is a new type created to diversify the city’s tea production. They took a leaf out of the Jin Jun Mei playbook, which is highly prized because it is made entirely of buds. It’s grown in Fujian at high altitudes of 1800 meters and picked before the Qing Ming festival, while the weather is still cool, and the tea is still full of the nutrients stored during winter.
And because the tea plants in Xinyang resemble the tea plants in Fujian quite closely, the farmers worked with Fujian farmers to produce this new variety: Xinyang black tea.
It’s truly a delight to drink. It handles a range of temperatures well, from 85°C to 95°C and yields its deliciousness continually for up to 7 infusions (I kept going for 12 infusions and enjoyed every sip). Lower temperatures bring out its full sweetness, while higher temperatures highlight its astringent black tea qualities, followed by a sweet aftertaste. It’s seriously the sweetest tea I’ve ever had – like the dessert wine of the tea world.
Origin: Xinyang, Henan Province, China
Harvest time: 2019
Leave colour: A light tan colour, with hues of orange and brown. Because it’s almost entirely made up of buds, it’s very furry and leaves a fine carpet of yellow fur in the bag.
Liquor colour: A bright and vibrant amber red that keeps a steady colour for the first 4 to 5 infusions.
Tea aroma: Light, overwhelmingly sweet with a comforting maltiness.
Tea taste: Gorgeously sweet, with notes of juicy fruit, caramel and honey.
Steeping/brewing: 4g in 100ml of water at 93-95°C for 1 minute for the first infusion, with an additional 10 seconds for each subsequent infusion.
Shelf life: Up to 3 years – but I doubt you’ll be able to keep it for that long. I guzzled my first bag in a matter of days. Enjoy!