Friday, March 21, 2014

Premium Dian Hong Cha • 滇紅茶

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I honestly can't say that I've ever had a tea that I flat out didn't like, but I can admit there are some types of tea that I get more or less excited about than others. Red tea (black in the West) being one of them.

In all fairness to the red/black tea family, most of my experience with it has been cheap tea bags but aside from the taste, the high-end Indian and Sri Lankan teas I've had gave me the jitters, which is exactly why I don't drink coffee.

Upon learning that China actually had a long history of producing red tea, I figured I ought to try it out. Looking through the selection on The Chinese Tea Shop's site, I was immediately seduced by the images of Dian Hong (Golden Tips Red Tea or also Yunnan Gold). I'm not usually one to judge a book by its cover, but with nothing else to go on, I figured at least if I don't like it, I'll have fun admiring the long, slender golden buds. The description sounded just as appealing, though, claiming the tea to have a "peach" flavour.

When the box arrived a couple of weeks later, the first package I opened was the Dian Hong. I was immediately greeted by a warm, intensely sweet scent that I found more citrus than peach but amazing none the less! I thought, if the brew tastes anything like the scent, than I chose well. 

What I was actually in store for, though, was a lesson in how untalented I am at brewing red tea... I remembered Prof Ahn's wife, Mrs Kim, telling me that green and red teas are both very difficult to learn. Not sure exactly what I did wrong, I began a long process of trail and error until eventually, several months and most of the package later, I realized everything. I'd started off treating it as an oolong, lots of leaves, very hot water, when all along the hint was in Mrs Kim's teaching. Using just a couple grams of leaf in a glass pot and letting the water sit in a 'suku' (cooling bowl), as I do with green tea, until it cooled to about 80°C, I was finally rewarded with a cup of Dian Hong that tasted very nearly to the delicious smell of the leaves. I followed the same steep schedule as green tea, 20-15-20-30-45-60... and found it just right. A very pleasant, sweet fruity taste and clear, bright orange colour.

Compared to Indian black tea, I found Dian Hong to still have a strong surge but a more manageable one.

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