On to the black tea that my sister in law brought home with her from China this month. The package is dated on the bottom indicating the tea was made on September 16, 2011
My friend Tao translated the label for me and tells me it is a black tea from the Fengqing region which is a famous black tea region in the Yunnan province. The package weight is 75g (and I presume the 90C refers to recommended water temp). But, he went on to say, the other information is a bit confusing because it says it's produced by a Taiwan tea company, and imported by a Shanghai trade company from Taiwan to Mainland China. Although Fengqing black tea is usually from Yunnan, it appears possible that this one may be produced in Taiwan in the Fengqing black tea style. Huh.
From a quick ramble around the web it looks like Fengqing is know for Pu-erh tea. And as for general info on the region, the Yunnan Adventure site told me that Yunnan Province is the most southwest region of China bordering the countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. It has a population of more than 43 million people (bigger than Canada) of which its 25 ethnic nationalities take up over 14 million. It has a diverse topography that ranges from alpine mountain ranges to tropical rainforests and the greatest number of plant species in China (more than 18,000) as well as an incredible array of animals, including the Asian elephant (!) and the protected Yunnan golden monkey.
On the tea side of things, apparently Yunnan's tea species are known as the "Yunnan large-leaf tea, which, just like the ideal Assam tea of India and the Kenya tea, belongs to superb tea species of the world, and is the ideal raw material for producing the black tea and Pu-erh tea." (Camellia Sinensis Assamica -- the tea plant native to Assam, India is a larger-leafed plant than Camellia Sinensis Sinensis, the one native to the Chinese side of the mountains. There are hundreds of varietals of each one now, each grown and/or developed for specific teas or climates.)
The website further states that "Comparing with the small-leaf species, Yunnan tea has higher polyphenol by 5-7% than the average value, catechin by 30-60% higher than the average value, and water-soluble substances by 3-5% higher than the average value." That all sounds good, don't you think, although I've no idea where they got those numbers.
The aroma out of the bag is sweet, then like mintyness of a mouthwash? Hmmm must be the bag. Hate that.
The liquor -- well I completely ruined this tea -- infused for too long on the first steep so it showed too much of a bitter note which subsumed pretty much any others.
A second steep results in a light bodied liquor with an odd bitter-sour dominant note. In behind that are faint hints of grainy sweetness.
Bah! I've completely ruined this tea by not paying attention to its preparation. I put too much in the Piao teamaker and infused for too long.
I'll have to wait until my mouth recovers and try again later to give this tea its due.
TAKE TWO, a few hours later.Leaves: 3.9 grams in 7 oz of water
Infuse: 45 seconds
The dry leaves have a warm slightly sweet aroma -- a pleasant whiff of a hay mow, and some baked fire.
This infuses to dark rich red-brown more quickly than I was expecting given all the little buds in there. The wet leaves give a faint hint of sharp fine spice, like clove, at the end.
The liquor is pretty smooth and light bodied -- only minor furring on the tongue. Very light caramel note. (I was expecting more, like a Golden Monkey, given all those golden buds.) Something pleasantly toasty like a roasted marshmellow. Ends with some bitterness on the sides of the back of the tongue, along with a wateryness in the bottom of the jaw.
Overall I have to say there's not much to this tea. Rather disappointing -- quite flat -- after my anticipation of this relatively fresh tea. And it's so pretty and all. It's possible it's the water, which has been boiled three times as I top up the kettle. Hmmm. Okay, I'll give this tea another go -- but not til' another day. Fresh water. Proper prep!
TAKE THREE, in early JulyOkay, I put entirely fresh spring water in the kettle and it has made a modest difference. Or perhaps my taste buds are just in a happier mood today. It's still a light bodied liquor, but there are sweeter caramel and honey notes and the tea is just not so dead in the mouth. It's got a decent balance to its flavour profile today.
I'm still not sure I'd rush back for more of this tea though.