Thursday, August 31, 2017

World of Tea Series: Explore the Teas of Southern China

Northwest Tea Festival hosts the World of Tea Series one Saturday of each month. This series offers unique tea tastings and workshops presented by specialists in the industry.

On July 15th, Andrew Goodman (The Happy Tea Man) hosted an Exploration of the Teas of Southern China.

Since most of the teas we would be tasting were heicha (dark tea), Andrew explained the region-specific naming conventions.

Heicha from Yunnan is called puerh.
Heicha from Guangxi is called liu bao.
Heicha from Anhui is called Anhui heicha or fucha (fu tea).

We also had the opportunity to admire a 3-sided puerh knife from Crimson Lotus, hand-forged from damascus steel.

The first tea was a 2014 Jingmai Ancient Tree (Crimson Lotus Tea) sheng puerh cake.  The aroma was mossy while the taste had the barest hint of bitterness with a flowery finish.  

Jingmai is located in the southernmost region of Yunnan with an elevation of around 1600 meters.  It is home to some of the oldest tea trees in the world, including an almost 3,000 year old tree with its own guard.  For this reason, Jingmai is currently a UNESCO World Heritage nominee.  The 300-year-old gushu (ancient tree) leaves are sun-dried, lightly fermented through decomposition and composting, and heated (shaqing, kill-green) to deactivate enzymes and reduce moisture. 

Our next tea was a 2015 Bulang Mountain sheng maocha (crude tea) (Global Tea Hut) with vegetal notes.

Moving on to ripened puerh, we tasted 2015 That's No Moon (Crimson Lotus) shou puerh cake with a marine and mushroom aroma and wood-like taste with notes of something that reminded me of prunes.

The final Yunnan tea was 2002 Purple Label (Phoenix Tea), a shou puerh with a woody and savory aroma that reminded me of soy sauce.

Our last dark tea was a 2003 Liu Bao from Wuzhou Tea Factory in Guangxi. Liu bao are almost all post-fermented and most are packed into bamboo baskets while some are pressed into cakes. The aroma was woody and the taste was smooth.

The finale to our tea tasting adventure was Eight Immortals Oolong from Wudong Mountain in the Phoenix Mountain range in Guangdong. This comes from (is cloned from) a single tea tree (Eight Immortals) that was struck by lightning almost a century ago and since then has produced tea with a unique flavor and aroma. The aroma and flavor were smoky and savory.

Thanks to Northwest Tea Festival and to Andrew Goodman for another great tea tasting experience!

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