Hong Cha steeped for 20 minutes ?

Here at Tea Trekker we have been experimenting with various steep times for several of our long leaf, China black teas (hong cha).

Of particular interest has been the wild and high-mountain-grown, older-variety leaf from Yunnan Province in southwest China.

We normally steep these teas twice, first for 4 minutes and then again for 4-5 minutes, depending on the size of the leaf and the amount of bud. We generally use this methodology also with the large leaf eastern China black teas, new Keemun Buds, and several other black teas such as Fenghuang Dan Cong Black and Yingde #9, as well.

Depending on the circumstances, we vary the steep times and the amount of leaf used. We always use a generous portion of leaf, as this ensures the hearty cup that we are seeking.

One recent afternoon in the store, Bob was steeping some JingMai Wild Arbor black tea, and was called away to answer a customer’s question. That leaf ended up steeping for almost 20 minutes before he had a chance to retrieve it.

He knew to taste it anyway, ‘just in case’, because the initial steeping water had been off-the-boil, as that is what he normally likes to use with Yunnan black teas. The steeped tea was absolutely delicious and very unusual – it had nuances of flavor that were shocking and there was not even a whisper of astringency or that over-steeped, ‘cooked’ flavor that a smaller-leaf tea would have exhibited if steeped that long.

He even decided to experiment with a second steeping (curiosity is critical in tea steeping!) and so used very hot water and a 5-minute steep and the resulting tea was quite drinkable, but light.

What was particularly noticeable in the long steep was the deep, woody, layered ‘forest’ flavor that is so unique to Yunnan teas, but doesn’t always show in a ‘regular’ cup steeped for a shorter time.

We use this experience to illustrate the necessity to ‘play with your tea’. We just never know what delightful experience we will have until this sort of ‘mistake’ happens.

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Hong Cha

Fall is underway. Cool days and nights make us wish for stronger tasting teas. Chinese hong cha is the perfect choice in this time of changing weather. Warm, rich, sweet, smooth, deliciously full in the mouth…Chinese hong cha has many styles and tastes to discover.Hong cha, known as red tea in China (for the amber/ red colored tea liquor in the cup) and black tea in the West (for the dark color of the dried tea leaf), was the final type of tea to be developed by Chinese tea makers in the latter half of the 17th century.

Hong cha are full-bodied and smooth in the cup – their flavors suggest chocolate, dark red fruits, woody aromatic spices such as cinnamon, caramel, malt, with the gentle aroma of ‘biscuit’ such as that of a petit beurre. Some types of hong cha feature a touch of delicate smoke, or a flinty, brisk characteristic known as ‘winey’.

Almost all have a sweet finish that leaves a pleasant aftertaste in the mouth.

Hong cha is made in several provinces of China

Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Sichuan, and Yunnan

This tea is generally comprised of large, somewhat thick and dark, brownish-black or grey-black, fragrant leaves, while the bud-only style has a glorious straight or slightly twisted or curled form, and tends to be golden in color due to the lack of pigmentation in the freshly-plucked bud or budset. However, all are fully oxidized and worthy of your attention.

We think that Chinese black teas are among the tastiest black teas made anywhere. They represent centuries of workmanship and the distinctions of terroir, and all are wonderful drunk plain, without milk or sugar. We have recently added several new Yunnan black teas to our already large collection of these wonderful teas.