I remember my first encounter with fuzhuan brick tea, it was in a tea expo. I was still learning about teas, and I had no idea what I was having. I was not particularly impressed by its taste. The vendor told me that, if you are drinking tea for its aromas and flavours probably fuzhuan brick is not for you. This tea is drunk for the health benefits he added.
Since then, I have seen fuzhuan teas often. It is true that in the Chinese market, it is advertised as a medicinal tea. Its perceived benefits include weight loss, improving gut flora and the immune system.
It is important to note that dark tea (hei cha) has a long history and Hunan is considered the first province that produced dark tea some 1400 years ago during the Tang Dynasty. Initially, hei mao cha (similar to loose sheng pu-erh) was produced, and it is still considered the first step into making different types of darks teas today, including fuzhuan brick tea. Tony Gebely in his book 'Tea: A User's Guide' suggests that the tea cultivars in Anhua, Hunan are usually descendants of Camellia sinensis var. assamica (aka Da Ye Zhong or large leaf type). Although, I have always thought that they would be camellia sinensis var. sinensis. Anyway, this is not a debate I will resolve today, but it is possible that camellia sinensis var. assamica grows or used to grow in Hunan province too.
Going back to hei mao cha, it is a semi-finished dark tea, and its process includes fixing, rolling, pile-fermenting and drying fresh tea leaves. Once hei mao cha is produced, then the tea leaves are inoculated with the "golden flower. This is now as heaping or fungal fermentation.
According to Joseph Wesley, this is done as follows: "the spores are dry mixed with a food such as rice flour, barley flour, or wheat flour and then mixed with the dry tea leaves and stems; the mould spores are combined with a saline solution that is sprayed on the dry leaves and branches, or the mould spores are mixed directly with the dry leaves and stems. The below photos demonstrate the process of hei mao cha (a) and fungal fermentation (b).
Photo source: Zheng, WJ., Wan, XC. & Bao, GH. Brick dark tea: a review of the manufacture, chemical constituents and bioconversion of the major chemical components during fermentation.Phytochem Rev 14, 499–523 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11101-015-9402-8
I have to say since I have tried the fu brick for the first time, my perception changed significantly. For the better! I liked this tea's fruity, camphor and smoky aromas. Its taste was sweet with resins, menthol and smooth.
This tea alone could demonstrate how much my perception and liking changes in the course of this 365 teas challenge.
Sources: Tony Gebely. “Tea: A User's Guide.”
Joseph Wesley Uhl. “The Art and Craft of Tea.”
Origin: Anhua, Hunan
Harvest time: 2012
Leaf colour: Leaves and stems in tones of brown with visible golden flower spots
Liquor colour: Orange/amber
Tea Aroma: Fruity, camphor and smoky
Tea Taste: Smooth and sweet with menthol and resins
Steeping: Place 6g in 100ml of water at 100ºC and rinse after 5 seconds. Steep for 20 seconds during the first infusion,and add 10 seconds to the subsequent infusions. You can re-steep this tea multiple times.
Shelf life: Can be aged