Tea: 2019 Anhua Heicha Longzhu (安化黑茶龙珠）
Type: Huangye Anhua Heicha 荒野安化黑茶
Fermentation Level: Medium
Harvest: Spring 2019
Press Date: Summer 2019
Press Size: ~6g balls
Region: Dafu Village, Anhua, Yiyang, Hunan
Producer: Mrs. Huang
Tasting Notes: Cracked Black Pepper, Pine Sap, Spinach, Camphore, Honey
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.
When the dragonball is placed into the warmed gaiwan, we are greeted with the sharp spice of freshly cracked black pepper backed by something richly vegetal. The medium to light fermentation can be seen immediately after the first rinse, the green leaves give off a deeply umami aroma of pinesap and cedar wood. 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.
This tea brews up a deep viscous gold, and is incredibly thick and pleasant on the tongue. After only a few infusions it can produce a profound huigan, and lingers in the back of the throat. The infusions ride an interesting line between deeply earthy textures of wood, leather, and tobacco and a greener side of vegetal notes, such as spinach and nettle. While this tea is pleasantly soft when brewed fast, it has the power to become strong and slightly astringent if it is overstepped. This slight astringent edge is both reason for the deep huigan, and a characteristic of Anhua Heicha.
We tend to give this tea a double rinse, just to give the dragonball enough time to open up and brew more evenly. We hope to visit Mrs. Huang in the mountains of Anhua next year, so stay tuned for more information about her small village factory!