Tea: 2017 Anhua Heicha (安化黑茶） Type: Huangye Fuzhuan Anhua Heicha 荒野苻砖安化黑茶 Fermentation Level: Medium Harvest: Spring 2017 Press Date: Summer 2017 Press Size: 800g Region: Gaoma Terroir Region, Anhua County. Producer: Mrs. Huang Tasting Notes: Cedar Wood, Sea Salt, Honey Smoked Ham, Fresh Sage, Pine Sap
Introduced to us by a Tujia Minority mutual friend, Mrs. Huang with her small village factory, Xianle, is reinventing high-quality Anhua Heicha. While nearly all of Anhua Heicha production is being carried out by mega-factories and huge companies, Mrs. Huang represents the small minority doing things the old-fashioned way.
Her mountain is in Dafu Village of Anhua, Hunan, and the tea she harvests comes from hidden groves within, all of which have been nearly forgotten and left to grow wild. This tea is the careful production of a small team, and the attention to cleanliness, quality, and detail is unparalleled in anything we have seen in Anhua thus far.
Additionally, this tea brick is pressed rather loosely by Anhua Heicha standards, making the breaking up of leaves very easy to do and preserve whole leaf sessions.
As soon as the dry leaves are placed in a warm gaiwan, they begin to exude an interesting fragrance of sea salt and cedar wood. This transforms to something much more savory like honey smoked ham when rinsed with boiling water. When brewed in a gaiwan as we tend to do, the liquor is a rich amber very fragrant yet surprisingly smooth and clean on the tongue. There isn't much astringancy as we have encountered with other Anhua Heicha teas.
The liquor is sweet with a complex mineral mouthfeel. Although it is only 7 years old (young for Anhua Heicha) it is remarkably mellow and smooth. The first half of the session is dominated by strong brews that are full in the mouth, enlivening to the palate, and leaving a tingling sensation on the tongue. This calms down as the flavor of the leaves shine through the fermented process and becomes much more vegetal and sweet towards the end of the session, though the resinous wood fragrance of the leaves persists through the entire session, perfuming the tea table every time we lift the lid to add more water.
The leaves lose some of their meaty notes and the fragrances transform into something more akin to incense and camphor as the session progresses.