Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spring 2011 Big Arbor Dian Hung from Mojiang

Cultivar: 100 years old big puerh tea tree
Leaves: Buds and young leafs
Harvested by hand in April 2011
Origin: Mojiang, Yunnan, China
Elevation: 1700-1800 meters
Process: fully oxidized = red tea (= hung cha) or black tea in the Western vocabulary.

Equipment used (from my selection):
- 12cl small qingbai porcelain teapot
- qingbai 'singing' cups
- antique grenade/jar
- small pink Cha Bu

Among the hard core of loose tea leaves drinkers, red tea is usually considered the least interesting. Oolong, puerh and green tea are held in much higher esteem. The reason for this is probably the fact that red tea has become synonym with cheap, mass market tea (bags)! Thanks to Robert Fortune, the English were able to break China's monopoly on red tea in the mid 19th century. They helped India produce red tea cheaper, but this also came at the expense of quality. However, from the mid 17th century until 1850, Lapsang Souchong and Qimen red, for example, were highly sought after by Europe's aristocracy. Huge sums of gold and silver were exchanged for this liquid delicacy. Fine red tea was a pleasure reserved for the most refined palates and its top quality had to match the price.

This old arbor Dian Hung brings us back to the roots of top quality red tea. It all starts with the leaves:
- small leaves and buds: they contain the highest, freshest notes, the least bitterness and the most concentration,
- spring harvest: the best season to harvest tender tea buds
- high altitude, semi wild old trees: a pristine, clean environment where trees grow naturally and slowly.

The oxidation process gives more body and heavier fragrances to the tea leaves. So, it's amazing how clean and light this tea feels when it enters the mouth and is swallowed. A fresh sweetness with ripe, brown sugar fragrances. And the lasting, powerful, round and sweet aftertaste is even more impressive!

It's a tea that is best brewed with few leaves and long brews of just boiled hot water.

This tea is a good fit for the holiday seasons (for reasons I will develop in a coming article). However, today, I wanted to brew it with a Chinese style Cha Xi, as I would with an Oolong or a puerh. The main difference is my choice of a small porcelain teapot, because porcelain is a good match with red tea: the fragrances are rendered clear and neutral. The qingbai porcelain contrasts with the red brew and emphasizes the freshness and natural fragrances of this sweet and deep Dian Hung.

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