Gongfu cha method has worked with almost all the teas I have encountered before. However, with this tea, I struggled to get it right when I used 100°C water. This tea looks great, smells heavenly but when brewed for 20 seconds with 100°C, all I could taste was bitterness. I had high expectations, as I thought this tea would give a similar taste as its cousins from Yunnan given that they are both made out of camellia sinensis var. assamica species. I can steep Yunnan Dian Hong teas like this one at 100°C and the result would be fantastic. I still do not know what caused this undesirable experience, but I realised that consequent infusions with naturally lowering water temperature were getting better. I still have a good amount of this tea, and I’ll be drinking it again, perhaps I will leave some for ageing.
I researched a bit the reason for bitterness in crafted teas and the number one cause is the plucking time. Summer teas tend to have more tannin which causes bitterness. I am not able to confirm the harvest time of this, but the farmer told me he produces on 50 kg of it every year. Other reasons could be the altitude and soil. Both do not sound like possible causes to me as I have tried green tea from the same farm which was not bitter. I found another probable explanation on this link, which suggests that the tannin levels in teas also depend on the duration of their processing. Accordingly, shorter processing time causes a higher concentration of tannins which result in bitterness.
Well, I have to admit not all my tea adventures end up well. This tea surprised and disappointed me. However, the whole experience also helped me to distinguish and appreciate quality teas even more. I will keep searching for a good cuppa and discuss my views and revelations with you. Bear with me, please.
Origin: Chiang Rai, Thailand
Harvest time: 2019 (possibly summer)
Leave colour: Black and dark brown with some golden tips
Liquor colour: Amber
Tea aroma: Earthy
Tea taste: Astringent with a lowering level of bitterness through multiple infusions
Steeping/brewing: You can use around 75-80°C water temperature and brew for up to half a minute in gongfu style. For this tea, I do not recommend Western style brewing as its bitterness would be more intense. 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.
Shelf life: Up to 36 months (to improve shelf-life store the sealed tea leaves in a dry, ventilated place with low temperatures and away from odour)