Bai Hao Hong Cha

bai hao hong cha - dry leaf

The purchase of this tea, part of my February black tea mini-haul, was inspired by the Panyong Golden Needle that came my way as part of the Lübeck Haul, which made me want to further explore the black (red tea/hong cha) teas that come out of Fuding county of Fujian province.

These leaves hail from Tai Mu mountain in Fuding, and are of the Da Bai Hao cultivar, which is the same one that many white teas are made from.

The dry leaves weren’t giving a lot away aroma wise, save a kind of default black tea thing with a suggestion of dark forest berries.

Steeping method
Water Used: Filtered tap water
Weight of dry leaf: 6 grams
Infusion style: Gong-fu
Steeping vessel: 150 ml porcelain gaiwan
Water temperature: 100°C
No. & duration: 6 infusions of 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, and 60 seconds duration

Before sipping the first infusion I had a good old sniff of the wet leaves. As well as that fruity note they were giving off hints of dark chocolate and pepperiness.

That first round’s liquor was clearly not quite ready to dole out the good stuff yet, but still managed to give one the impression that something vegetal, minty even, was going to be part of the deal.

bai hao hong cha - a cup of

By the third round the body had thickened up into a genuine lip sticker, and I was surprised to find myself experiencing a noticeable Qi buzz.

Just one round later the liquor was showing off two more characteristics, a fruity tartness somewhere between raspberry and blueberry, as well as a kind of benign mustiness, not in the way a dank cellar could be described, but rather, and this is the precise image that popped into my head as I tried to give shape to the sensory experience, like the interior of an old store, sort of a cross between a spice shop and an apothecary’s. Think dimly lit, cool interior, all old wood, bell above the door. The expression “the weight of age” superimposed itself onto the illusion.

The next steeping saw the quality of the liquor start to slip, and one round later it fell off the cliff edge, ending the session.

bai hao hong cha - used leaves

Curiously enough, that seemed about right. The shortish length of the session kind of added to a general sense of mystery about these leaves, if that doesn’t sound too Scooby-doo-ish. Post session I was left with the distinct feeling that there’s more going on here than meets the eye, nose, and taste buds, and that a bit more work might be needed to find out which rock the rest of the good stuff might be hiding under.

I’m going to initially experiment with dropping water temperature down a bit, maybe even as low as 80/85°C, maybe try a Western style approach, see what that achieves.

I think it’s worth the effort because it might just pay out a good dividend. The feeling I have here is that what is currently a solid daily drinker might actually become something a little more sophisticated if I can pick a few locks, if you follow.

Watch this space, etc…

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