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365 Teas Challenge > Day 272 - Everyday Dark Tea from Hunan

This tea comes from almost no information. I only know that it is dark tea and it comes from Hunan. It was not extraordinary, similar to other dark teas I tried that came from the same province. Distinctively different from Pu-erhs, as they are less earthy and fruitier and sweeter, in my opinion.

So, I have an opportunity to tell you about dark teas. In Chinese, they are called ‘hei cha’ which is ‘black tea’. However, it is not the black tea we know of. The Chinese call the ordinary black tea, primarily consumed in the West ‘hong cha’ which translates as ‘red tea’. I know it is confusing. But it is what it is. Dark teas are not as known as black (hong cha) teas in the West. Pu-erh usually leads the way and even considered a category of its own. But the fact is, other provinces in China (apart from Yunnan) also produces dark tea and their history can be dated back to the Ming Dynasty at 1500 A.D. What makes dark tea different is that they are subject to post-fermentation processing, and according to this research, chemical analysis showed that the changes of significant compounds were directly related to the fungi. We are talking about Eurotium cristatum, Aspergillus, Penicillium genus, yeast fungi and many others. These microorganisms are not found in other teas, and dark teas do not contain catechins and L-theanine much which are contained at much higher levels in unoxidised and semi-oxidised teas such as green tea and oolong tea. Traditionally, darks teas have been consumed by minority groups in China (e.g. Tibet, Xinjiang) and considered as traditional Chinese medicine (Zhang et al., 2012) who also notes that dark teas heal the infectious diseases and bacillary dysentery. With the popularisation of pu-erh tea, many researchers investigated pu-erh’s health benefits, and some found that it improved the immune system and decreased the inflammation (Zhang, Shao, Yuan, Tu, & Ma, 2012). So hei cha is a beverage, yes. But it is also medicine with a lot of health benefits thanks to the microorganisms that contain.

Dear tea drinkers of the West! You are in for a treat. You have a whole world of dark teas to discover.

Tea Profile:

Type: Dark

Origin: Hunan

Harvest time: 201?

Leaf colour: Tones of dark brown and red

Liquor colour: Dark amber (it should be darker than it looks on the photo above)

Tea aroma: Earthy and woody

Tea taste: Full-bodied, fruity and slightly sweet

Steeping/brewing: Place 6 g of this tea in a teapot or gaiwan and add about 100 ml water at around 100°C. Rinse after 5 sec. Steep for 10 seconds for the second time and increase the consecutive steeping time by 10 seconds each time. You can steep this tea multiple times.

Shelf life: Can be aged

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