Imagine alluring aromas of caramel and burnt sugar…and thick broth that coats your tongue providing enticing aftertaste insisting on another sip…
You are about to enter a path of no return, for once you experience the wonders of China Hong Cha it will forever be on your must-have list of life-enriching teas…really.
Fair warning, get ready to make room in your Tea Caddy for some permanent new members you are not going to be able to live without.
Let’s start with Hong Cha…What is it?
Westerner’s call it Black Tea, but in China Hong means Red…not Black. Yea, I know confusing.
Ok so back to Hong Cha…and why it is so fabulous in our teacups.
In the tea world we say that 60-80% of a tea’s character comes from it’s DNA and growing environment. So, we owe a great deal of the result we get in our infusers to the place the tea grows and the plants it grows from…which of course does not happen by chance…
Since all tea comes from Camellia sinensis we get to enjoy such a great variety of teas because the tea plant is so adaptable to so many different climates & environments. And since all tea comes from that same plant, both white and black teas can be made from the same plant…although they rarely are.
Growers in famous growing regions have developed tea processing techniques that have given them notoriety for certain types of tea, so that is what they focus on…like Hong Cha.
To make great tea soup…start with great tea leaves…yes Soup.
Unique micro-climates, and lots of TLC make great tea leaves, but then there is the harvesting…
Most of these remarkable China blacks are harvested by hand, a bud, a bud and a leaf, or two leaves and a bud at a time. This is done by skilled pluckers that have learned how to evaluate and select leaves that are just right for the tea to be produced.
You see, most of these great teas are produced from spring harvests when the newly emerging buds and shoots are tender, delicate, sweet, and holding more sugar and flavor compounds than any other time of year. Many of the prized leaves are harvested Before The Rains or Qing Ming from late April until early May depending on the region.
China Hong Cha style teas are very smooth, non-astringent, often with lots of tip and a winey character.
How do they get that way? Well, we know 60-80% comes from the terroir, so that leaves 20-40% of the tea’s character coming from the processing technique which in its own is both science and art.
During processing of the leaves, the conditions are controlled to develop unique fragrance and tone-down astringency.
Considerable moisture is removed from the plump leaves during a step called withering where the leaves lose a lot of their water content. This makes the leaves pliable so they can be worked causing disruption of the cells inside the leaf and squeezing ingredients from within to the surface, exposing them to oxygen.
The process of withering then oxidation creates amino acids and sugars in the leaves creating ideal conditions for the final firing to both dry the leaves and impart unique character by manipulating and altering the ingredients in the dreamiest way.
When they reach our infusers and our teacups, the magic is ready to happen, and happen it does.
The dry leaves will exhibit a lot of gold tip and bud. This yields a broth with more golden tones and less dark tones than other teas. The large amount of tip and bud make the teas less dry, juicier and more winey. The aromas will be of caramel, burnt sugar, toast, dinner roll with dried fruit background notes.
Here are a handful of China Blacks that will keep you coming back for more…
Ready to go to the next step in your black tea appreciation and enjoyment?
Your tea world will be nicer with some of the outstanding China Hong Chas in it.