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365 Teas Challenge > Day 254 - Ya’an Tibetan Tea 2015

Why not making tea with yak butter, salt and dark tea from Sichuan? This is what Tibetan people have been drinking for centuries. Indeed, one leg of the famous tea horse road started in the city of Ya'an and ended in Tibet.

This tea has been through a series of oxidation, condensation, and hydrolysis reactions led by tea polyphenols under the action of damp heat and microorganisms. However, post-fermenting tea was not a choice but a result of a long journey on the tea horse road—a little bit background is below.

For Tibetans, milk tea is considered a staple food, and they also believe that tea has multiple health benefits. Some studies have shown that Ya'an Tibetan Tea can effectively remove free radicals, increase the body's antioxidant function, and also has weight loss, lipid reduction, anti-cancer and laxative effects as mentioned in this article.

Heiss in her book 'The Story of Tea' discusses that Tibetans first learned of tea in 641 AD, when the Tang Princess Wen Cheng married the Tibetan king Songtsan Gambo and brought tea from Sichuan with her to Tibet. This has opened up a trading collaboration, and Tibetans exchanged their horse for tea from Sichuan for centuries. Hence the name of "tea horse road". The Tang court was trading their innovative compressed bricks of dark, coarse, low-quality (comprised mainly of tea twigs and leftover bits from the manufacture of the Tang's more special tea cakes) as a practical way to send as much tea as possible to Tibet on each caravan. By the time the tea arrived in Tibet, it was post-fermented, but Tibetans loved it and started to prepare it with milk and butter. I can imagine that the taste may not have been at all pleasant if the tea content was mostly twig and stems. But this tea I tasted was quite flavourful without any addition. It was aged in bamboo baskets, and this may have given it an extra edge.

Sources: Z. P. Shi, Tea Processing [M]. Beijing: China Agricultural Press, 1997

Mary Lou Heiss. “The Story of Tea.”

Study on Anti-radiation Effect of Ya'an Tibetan Tea, 2020

Tea Profile:

Type: Dark

Origin: Sichuan

Harvest time: 2015

Leaf colour: Tones of dark brown

Liquor colour: Dark maroon

Tea aroma: Earthy and fruity

Tea taste: Thick with intense earhtly, hay and fruity notes

Steeping/brewing: Place 6 g of this tea in a teapot or gaiwan and add about 100-120 ml water at around 100°C. Rinse after 15 sec. Steep for 15 seconds for the second time and increase the consecutive steeping time by 10 seconds each time. You can steep this tea several times.

Shelf life: Can be aged.

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