Japan ~ Furyu Bancha Goishicha | Yunomi

Today I’ll be tasting yet another dark tea from Japan.

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Hello fellow tea-drinkers! I know, I haven’t been active for a really, really long time (like a few months, oof) but I promise I didn’t forget ya! I have just been super busy. In case you didn’t already know, I’m a senior in high school so these past few months have been pretty chaotic, with applying to colleges and what-not. All of that (plus adjusting back into the new year and other family occurrences) has sucked up most of my free time.

I am now finally in a place where I can relax, take some time to myself and enjoy some tea so I decided to sit down and write a proper tea review for you.

Now a few months ago I tried my first Japanese dark tea, a particularly interesting one at that called awa bancha (阿波番茶). It was from the Furyu Bancha Specialty Shop and sold through Yunomi. I was shocked by how different it was from any tea I had tasted, and I assume it’s because it was fermented through a lactic acid bacterial fermentation process, which is very uncommon with Chinese dark tea.

The tea I am trying today is a bit of a hybrid: it’s fermented with lactic acid fermentation like its cousin, awa bancha however it is also piled and cured with mold, like a Chinese dark tea (ex. fu cha).

This tea is called goishicha (番茶碁石茶). The name refers to the tea’s resemblance to the black stones of “go”, a traditional Japanese game. This tea also comes from the Furyu Bancha Specialty Shop and was sourced through Yunomi however it has its origins in the small town of Otoyo in Kochi Prefecture, located in the south-central area of Shikoku Island.

Otoyo is a quaint town of less than 5,000 people, and it is currently the only place in Japan where this tea is still actively made. The practice of making it almost died, actually however thanks to government funding it was brought back and consumption has been increasing.

Goishicha has long been a a staple of people living on the small islands in the Seto Inland Sea, the sea located in the central region in between Kyushu, Honshu, and Shikoku. They use it there to make chagayu, a rice porridge boiled in tea. 

So, with the history covered, let’s get on to the tasting! Yunomi’s directions said to brew one block of the tea for 5 minutes in 360ml of water. 

So I brought out my tried and true left-handed kyusu (which has mostly been brewing homemade hojicha lately) and I brewed it up!

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The dry blocks of goishicha are very unusual in terms of their smell. The first notes are of sweet dried fruit, like a dried apricot or plum. A punch of sourness and a hint of medicinal herbs come through, making it smell a lot like traditional Chinese preserved fruits. It ends with savory notes of soy sauce as more earthy, fungal notes creep up. I would say that the smell is similar in pungency to something like sakuraya, which are sakura (cherry blossoms) preserved in salt that I like to add to my sencha sometimes (of course the scent profile is completely different, though). 

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The steeped leaves smell quite similar to the dry leaves, with the familiar sour-sweet notes of dried fruit coming through with significant pungency. The only major difference I can detect is a noticeable lack of the earthy, woody notes I experienced in the dry leaves; it’s mostly just sourness.

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The tea itself smells quite light in contrast to the intense smells of the dry and steeped leaves. There is a light, savory soy sauce scent coupled with an earthy, vegetal smell akin to dry grass. The intense sour smell from before isn’t nearly as present here.

The flavor is quite mild and extremely smooth. At first there’s a light, lemony sourness, which is immediately balanced out by earthier notes that are reminiscent of tree bark and wet wood. Umami notes of soy sauce sneak through before the tea finishes on a light, honeyed sweetness which reminds me unusually of the tapioca balls in boba tea. There is no astringency or bitterness whatsoever, and as you drink it the sourness starts to dissipate and become less noticeable.

I decided to push this tea a little bit so I left it in the pot for some more time. This produced a sourer brew with a hint of astringency. The wet wood notes were significantly stronger than the previous, and the sweetness at the end was more pronounced.

I immediately transferred what was left in my kyusu to a glass and put it in the fridge, since Yunomi recommended drinking the tea chilled to even out the sourness. When it’s cold, the sourness does even out quite a bit and the taste rounds itself out as well. I think this would be very cooling and refreshing in the summer, but since it’s November and I’m cold I think I’ll stick to drinking it hot for now.

I quite enjoy the sourness, I think it compliments the wet wood notes very nicely. This tea is actually very similar to the awa bancha I had, but I definitely prefer this because it combines the sourness of awa bancha with the woody, earthier notes of a Chinese heicha.

I tried to think of a Chinese heicha that was similar to this, and what I immediately thought of was Tibetan kang zhuan, since that heicha tends to be less earthy and more woody in flavor.

Overall, I enjoyed this tea a lot. I am definitely want to look into some more Japanese dark teas, like mimasaka bancha or batabatacha because I need to broaden my non-Chinese dark tea horizons.

Rating: 9/10
From: Furyu Bancha Specialty Shop, sourced from Yunomi.life
Otoyo Town, Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

China ~ Emperor’s Yellow Organic Yellow Tea | Yunnan Sourcing

Today I’ll be reviewing an interesting yellow tea from Yunnan Province in China.

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Hello all! I am finally back again with more tea to taste. My life has been significantly hectic lately so I apologize for being very, very MIA.

Today’s tea is very interesting – it’s a yellow tea from Yunnan Province! This tea is certified organic and was grown in the Simao District of Pu’er Prefecture, right on the southern slope of Ma Wei Mountain.

It’s produced similarly to a black tea, however the sun-withering and oxidation stages are reduced. That makes this tea more like a Korean yellow tea, which is really just a lightly oxidized black tea.

So, without further ado, on to the tasting!

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From the looks of it, this tea is exclusively buds. The dry leaves smell kind of like a cross between a green tea and a lightly oxidized black tea. It has the floral, fruity notes of a lightly oxidized black with the intense, toasted nuttiness of a Chinese green. There’s a little bit of a savory, slightly yeasty smell almost which makes it smell a little bit like crackers.

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The wet leaves smell toasted like the dry leaves but instead the dominant scent is a floral scent of a lightly oxidized black tea.

The tea itself has a strong, roasted nut scent and lacks the floral, honeyed notes of the dry leaves. The roasted scent coupled with the nuts once again smells a lot like toasted crackers or something of that nature.

The first steep begins with a punch of roasted nuttiness and the savory notes of buttered vegetables. As far as vegetables go, I got some asparagus notes as well as Brussels sprouts. Aside from roasted flavors there is a light, gentle, floral sweetness; a bit like wildflower honey but not nearly as intense as the honey notes that would be in a full-fledged black tea. Further steeps lessen those harsher, roasted notes (however they still remain present) and bring out more of the floral nature of the tea, as the flavor profile slowly comes closer to a black tea.

Overall, this tea was very interesting. It’s a new take on lightly-oxidized blacks, and I think that it is definitely worth trying if you’re looking for something unusual to add to your tea collection. I’m definitely inspired to go seek out more yellow teas as well since they are so mysterious and I would love to try more.

Rating: 9/10
From: Yunnan Sourcing
Ma Wei Mountain, Simao District, Pu’er Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China

 

South Korea ~ 2015 Jangheung Joongjak Aged Tea Coins | TeasUnique

Today I’ll be trying a very interesting dark tea from South Korea.

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Hey y’all! I am back again with a very interesting tea and I’m very excited about it.

Today I am trying…

KOREAN DARK TEA!

Yes! You read it correctly. Now, if you have been following this blog and/or my instagram you will know that I am a very avid hei cha (dark tea) lover so when I found this I kind of freaked out.

Korean teas are kind of overlooked in the tea world, yet Korean tea is something I have been very interested in exploring for a long time. A vast majority of the tea that comes out of Korea (in this case, South Korea) is green tea, so this is a nice changeup.

Most of the non-puerh dark tea you can find is hei cha, or Chinese dark tea – these are the varieties like tian jian, liu an, liu bao, fu zhuan, kang zhuan, qian/shi liang, and many more. Although these constitute a lot of the dark tea market there are some dark teas available from other regions.

Pu-erh style teas from Chinese border regions like Myanmar and Laos must be classified as dark tea, since they’re not from Yunnan but they are nearly identical to pu-erh.

After those teas you get to some real interesting stuff – the dark teas of Japan and as of today, Korea. I’ve had a dark tea from Japan before and it was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, so naturally I was very excited to see what Korea has to offer.

Dark tea has a surprisingly long history in Korea – commonly pressed into cakes, a fermented tea known as tteokcha or byeongcha was very popular in a premodern, united Korea. A very common form of tteokcha was called doncha or cheong tae jeon – small cakes with holes in the middle to look like coins.

That’s what tea I am enjoying today – cheong tae jeon. This particular tea was picked in 2015. It’s joongjak grade, which means it’s the third flush. This tea is from Jangheung County in South Jeolla Province, in the southwest of the country.

I found this interesting tea on TeasUnique, a website specializing in Korean tea. They are quite pricey ($25 for roughly 18g of tea) but you are paying for not only the tea but for the novelty of having a dark tea from Korea and the experience of brewing it, which I will get into later.

So, without further ado, on to the tasting!

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The coins arrived in a little pink bag and inside of the bag was a silver zip pouch with three little wrapped coins inside. Each coin is wrapped in white paper with Korean writing on it (both hangul and hanja) and a gold seal on top.

Upon opening the package the coins came in, I took a whiff before unwrapping one. The first thing that came to my mind was fu cha (fu brick tea), a hei cha from Hunan Province in China. It had the yeasty, slightly mushroomy scent coupled with a lightly smoky, tobacco scent very common to fu cha. The only difference is that these coins had a light, sweet, honeyed smell that reminded me of beeswax candles.

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Next I unwrapped the coin. It has a little hole in the middle and it didn’t feel super dense so I don’t believe it was super compressed (Thank goodness because I’ve injured myself several times trying to break apart overly compressed qian liang). The unwrapped coin smells a little grassier than it did with the wrapper on – it’s a little more hay-like and it reminds me of the hay I used to feed my guinea pigs as a child.

TeasUnique recommended that I roast the coin lightly for a few minutes before brewing. I was very excited at that suggestion because that meant I could use my hojiki (Japanese tea roaster) in another blog post!

Seriously though, aside from how hot the handle gets when roasting this hojiki is doing me very well. I don’t think I have had such copious amounts of hojicha in so little time before.

I was a little sad though because the coin is too big to pour through the handle of the roaster.

When I first started roasting the coin it didn’t smell like much but soon enough things got going and my entire kitchen smelled very interesting – intense notes of roasted spice (like  cinnamon) with the earthiness of ginseng, toasted nuts, and a grassy/earthy tobacco smell. It was a lot like if you were to cross hojicha and fu brick tea.

Next, TeasUnique said bring 1 liter of water to a boil, add the coin, and boil it for 7-10 minutes (I ended up boiling it for 10).

When I was boiling the tea, a dominant scent coming off the pot was a toasted grain smell, very reminiscent of roasted barley tea (called mugicha in Japan and boricha in Korea).

What’s weird though is that when I poured the tea out after 10 minutes the bottom of the pan smelled like cooked sugar – kind of like cotton candy.

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The steeped leaves however definitely smell a lot like the hojicha/fu cha cross smell of the roasted leaves. Lots of intense, roasted nutty notes dominate with the earthy-grassy scent of tobacco.

I was confused yet again upon smelling the tea because it smelled almost nothing like the steeped leaves – it smelled like barley tea.

And it tastes like it too! It’s rather light but it has quite a pronounced flavor of roasted barley. There are some slight differences though – there is some subtle fruitiness lingering in the back of the throat, along with a malty, chocolatey flavor. Just like the dark tea I tried from Japan, this is unlike any tea (I’m talking true tea here, not herbal teas like barley) I’ve ever had before.

I do enjoy it a lot – it’s a nice change up from other teas and it’s actually quite mild and smooth considering what you have to go through to brew it. I definitely think that the roasting/boiling process though is the most fun part of this and if you’re looking to try a tea that’s more novel and unusual I would definitely recommend this.

Rating: 9/10 (an extra point because I got to use my hojiki)
From: TeasUnique
Jangheung County, South Jeolla Province, South Korea

Tanzania ~ Usambara Region Green & Oolong Teas | Upton Tea Imports

Today I’ll be reviewing both a green and oolong tea from the Usambara Region of Tanzania.

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Hello tea-drinkers! Luckily my finals are over so hopefully I will be able to post more often in these next few months. I have some very interesting stuff planned so stay tuned!

A few weeks ago I got very into researching African tea. I had previously seen African teas on What-Cha (in fact I reviewed one here) yet many of them sold out before I could try I them. After a lot of digging I found a website which has several interesting African teas which I plan to review later this year.

During my research, I came across these two teas sold by Upton Tea Imports. They are both from the same region of Usambara in Tanzania. Upton didn’t give much information about these teas, with most of the description info describing the taste, so I had to do a little research myself on this region.

The Usambara Mountains are located in Northeastern Tanzania, southeast of Kilimanjaro but obviously west of the Indian Ocean. They are characterized by sprawling tropical forests, many of which have a variety of endemic species.

I am very excited to taste these, as they will be my second taste of African teas and they are from a rather lesser-known region, compared to the main tea giants of Africa: Kenya and Malawi.

Upton Tea offers both an oolong and a green tea from this region, so I purchased both for reviewing purposes. For both teas I used a glass gaiwan and followed the brewing parameters given on the packages (190F for the oolong and 170F for the green). So, without further ado, on to the tasting!

The first of the two that I tasted was the oolong.

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The dry leaves smelled very different than what I was expecting. They smell nutty, of raw almonds with a hint of floral fruitiness that I would compare to honeysuckle or melon. There are some sweet, molasses/brown sugar notes as well and altogether this tea smells a lot like a first or second flush Himalayan black tea.

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The steeped leaves smell intensely malty, definitely more akin to a black tea than an oolong. However, there are some roasted, fruity notes that are analogous to some highly oxidized yanchas. There’s a little bit of a marine, sea salt scent as well which gives it some pronounced mineral qualities.

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The tea itself smells quite light – the melon and honeysuckle notes of the dry leaves return with the malty notes of the steeped leaves to create and experience very, very similar to a second-flush Himalayan black tea (in particular a Darjeeling).

A first steep of this tea is quite flavorful – it’s full-bodied without being cloying. It’s got lots of melon fruitiness common to both white teas and early flushes of black teas, and there is a very present malty flavor which leans this particular tea towards a second-flush. There is a very light, honeyed sweetness which reminds me a lot of the Kenyan Rhino White Tea I reviewed a while ago (I linked it previously in this post). What’s unusual about this is that I don’t get any flavors that I commonly think of when I think of oolong, whether it be a lighter oolong or a darker one.

Since this tea is remarkably similar to earlier flushes of black tea from the Himalayas (Darjeeling, Sikkim, Kangra, Nepal, etc), I did a little research. Apparently earlier flushes of black teas from specifically Darjeeling undergo less oxidation during processing, and I think that happened with this tea. I imagine this was classified as an oolong simply by the oxidation level, and not by its processing.

Next I tasted the green tea.

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The dry leaves are quite dark and wiry, which makes them look a little more similar to green teas I’ve had from South Asia (ex. the Bhutanese green tea I had). The smell, however, is almost like a combination between Japanese gyokuro and Chinese taiping houkui. There is a savory, marine scent of gyokuro with the nuttiness and subtle toasted scent of taiping houkui. I was very surprised, because I would’ve never expected that scent from a tea this dark in color.

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The steeped leaves definitely smell more like a Japanese green than the dry leaves do, which is interesting because judging by the shape and look these were processed very differently from a Japanese green. There are very pronounced, intense marine notes along with a toasted nuttiness which is almost reminiscent of smelling cooked shellfish. There is a definite savory note as well which reminds me a lot of a gyokuro in particular.

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The tea is smells very light in comparison to the dry and wet leaves. There is a more pronounced grassiness here with just a little bit of the marine scent I experienced with the wet leaves.

The texture of the tea is quite noticeable – it’s rather light and crisp and goes down just like water. The flavor, however, is a little more elusive. The tea had a beautiful, light green-yellow color yet it tasted very underwhelming. There are very subtle notes of roasted nuts, with a little bit of vegetal grassiness and a hint of toasted seaweed. There wasn’t really any astringency which I liked and since this is a green tea I decided not to resteep it.

I was surprised at how light this green tea was – the scents of both the dry and wet leaves were incredibly strong so I was expecting something with a lot of flavor. This tea ended up a lot lighter, with the flavor profile and general intensity of flavor being a little lackluster for me. The little bit of flavor that was there, however, is more reminiscent of a higher-quality green so at least it doesn’t taste cheap.

Overall, I am quite impressed with these two teas. They were both very different from what I was expecting but I see them being very similar to teas from other regions. My only problem with these two teas is that the green tea was quite bland (and I followed their parameters!) and it lacked a more pronounced depth of flavor that I’m used to having with the green teas I normally drink (taiping houkui, liu an gua pian). I also wish I knew a little more about where these came from, rather than just a general region.

These are quite interesting and if you’re looking to try some teas from more unusual regions than I would definitely recommend these. However I suggest thinking of the oolong as a black tea and maybe going a little higher on the temperature and/or steeping time than suggested for the green. Who knows, maybe you can get more flavor out of it than I can.

So although I didn’t love the green tea, I liked the oolong quite a lot and I do give major props to Tanzanian tea growers for growing some good quality tea in comparison to most of what comes out of that region, which is a lot of CTC and teabag stuff.

Ratings:
Oolong: 8/10
Green: 6.5/10
From: Upton Tea Imports
Usambara Region, Tanzania

Japan ~ Furyu Awa Bancha | Yunomi

Today I’ll be tasting awa bancha, a dark tea from Japan.

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Hello all! Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while, finals have been coming up and I was studying like craaazzyy.

Anyways, I’m back with another tea review and I’m very excited, since I will be tasting a dark (post-fermented) tea from Japan.

I’ve seen several Japanese dark teas around so I bought a few (reviews coming soon) and this is one of them. This particular dark tea is called awa bancha (阿波晩茶).

Awa bancha is produced traditionally in Tokushima Prefecture, on the eastern side of the island of Shikoku. This tea was produced there but sourced from a tea shop (Furyu Bancha Specialty Shop) in Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu.

So what sets this tea apart from, say, a Chinese dark tea? Well, it’s all about the fermentation. While Chinese teas are piled to encourage fermentation by mold (very noticeable in something like a Fu brick tea), this dark tea is fermented with lactic acid fermentation, like the processing of milk into yogurt.

It’s quite mundane in it’s production, however. Mature leaves are picked, the leaves are rubbed by hand or through a machine, and then they are left in a bucket to ferment.

So, let’s get on to the tasting. I brewed this tea up in a 360ml kyusu pot with boiling water.

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The dry leaves are giant, and they almost remind me of dry leaves you would see walking in a forest here in New York. They smell a little earthy but mostly tangy and slightly fruity, like dried hibiscus tea. There are slight floral notes reminiscent of rose. Now that I think about it, the fruity scent is a lot like umeboshi (pickled plums).

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The steeped leaves smell like nothing I’ve ever smelled before. There are light, wet leaf notes along with an umami scent of soy sauce. There is also a distinguishable toasted rice scent throughout.

The tea has the distinctive umeboshi scent of the dry leaves however it mostly smells like wet leaves. The smell, unusually, reminds me a lot of aged white tea (particularly the aged shou mei I recently reviewed).

Upon tasting the tea, the first flavor is a soft, subtle taste of wet forest floor. There is a little sweetness along with light notes of vanilla. It ends on a distinctive sourness which is a little unusual but not overpowering or anything. It’s quite crisp and fresh and has a very light, watery texture. Overall, it tastes kind of like if sour plum was added to an aged shou mei. I steeped it again and it tasted very similar, but the earthy notes became a little more pronounced and a subtle, piney flavor really enhanced the umeboshi notes I was getting.

Overall, this is a very interesting tea. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever had but since it’s so bizarre I would love to explore some more Japanese dark teas. I’ve also seen some Korean dark tea out there so I will definitely be snagging some of that to review in the next month or two.

Rating: 8/10
From: Yunomi Tea
Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku Island, Japan

China ~ 1980s Chong Shi Cha (Insect Feces Tea) | Chawang Shop

Today I’ll be reviewing an interesting dark tea from Guangxi made from insect feces.

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Hello all! I am back once again with a tea review and this one is incredible.

I was doing a little research about heicha since I love it so much and I came across something called “chong shi cha”, which directly translates to worm tea or worm dropping tea.

Yes, you read that right.

This tea is made with insect feces.

As soon as I read that I became very interested and I searched around until I found it on Chawang Shop. They had two (one from Sichuan and one from Guangxi) but the Sichuan was sold out.

The one I was able to buy was made in the 1980s by an ethnic minority group in Guangxi and was commonly exported to Hong Kong, Macau, and populations of overseas Chinese (ex. Singapore and Malaysia) due to its supposed health benefits.

The method of making this tea is very interesting – medicinal herbs and old tea leaves are put in a bamboo basket and left to ferment. The scent of the fermenting tea and herbs attracts insects, which lay their eggs in the basket. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the leaves and leave their droppings in the basket.

The droppings are taken out and sun-dried, and then fried with tea leaves and honey to finalize it for consumption.

Now, I’ve never eaten feces before (nor have I ever wanted to) but this tea was too interesting for me to not buy it. So I ordered it and in a few weeks I received it and immediately got my gaiwan ready to taste it.

As recommended by Chawang Shop, I steeped a few grams of it with 100 degrees Celsius water.

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The dry leaves (or I guess droppings in this case) are very, very small and pellet-shaped. They are even smaller than CTC black teas. The droppings smell very, very earthy and almost exactly like a lake – intense notes of soil and a very present mineral quality of wet rocks. It’s actually kind of nostalgic for me since it reminds me of swimming in lakes as a kid.

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The steeped leaves droppings smell like an old, dusty garage (I know, it sounds great). Very intense rocky notes are present with a little smokiness and a slight hint of leather.

The tea itself smells a lot like the dry droppings – it’s got that intense wet shale and soil scent that is almost exactly like lake water.

The taste of the tea, though, is very interesting. The first steep is full of intense shale flavors and at first it is a lot like drinking lake water, but I can definitely taste some other, more herby flavors that I assume are from the medicinal herbs put into the basket during production. There are hints of spice like clove and cinnamon with a subtle note of camphor. There is a very light note of sandalwood as well. A second steep was much darker (I may have brewed it too long) and it looked almost exactly like a shou pu-erh. The flavor was similar to the first steep but there were some more pronounced woody notes than in the first steep.

Overall, I actually did like this tea however it was a little intense (I think I would use less leaf and shorter steep times next time). Chawang Shop recommends adding a little of this tea to your liu bao which I personally think is a great idea and that’s probably what I will do with the rest of it.

I think this tea tastes a lot like a liu bao as well and it’s actually quite smooth and cooling. I would definitely recommend trying this, because it’s probably one of the most unusual teas out there and it actually tastes quite nice.

Rating: 10/10 (an extra point for being very novel and fun)
From: Chawang Shop
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China

China ~ 1992 Tibetan Kang Brick Tea | Yunnan Sourcing

Today I’ll be reviewing a Tibetan kang brick tea from Guizhou, China.

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Hello! Today I am back with a classic tea review, and this particular review will be quite interesting (at least for me) since I’m tasting a heicha that I’ve never had before.

As you may know, heichas (dark teas) are some of my favorite teas. I find their methods of processing and archaic nature fascinating, and I’m always looking for new varieties to taste.

I’ve had my fair share of Chinese dark tea, as well – I frequently drink fu cha (fu brick tea) and liu bao is my favorite tea of all time. Pu-erh, of course, is in its own category entirely.

Anyways, today’s tea is a kang zhuan cha, or Tibetan brick tea.

Tibetan brick tea originates in the Chinese Tang dynasty, where tea had recently become popular for recreational consumption. A vast majority of teas were compressed for an ease of transport. These compressed bricks were sometimes used as currency on the Silk Road, and they were transported West via yak on caravans.

These bricks are still consumed in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and Ladakh as a beverage and as a source of nutrients, as the tea is often combined with freshly-churned yak butter to make po cha (or suja in Bhutan).

Most Tibetan bricks of today are produced in the city of Ya’an in western Sichuan Province and moved West for the Tibetan market, however this particular tea was produced in a smaller tea factory in Guizhou.

These bricks were stored in a family home in Tibet for over 10 years, where they’ve slowly been aging since 1992.

So, with the backstory covered, let’s move on to the tasting!

As usual, I brewed this tea in a 150ml gaiwan at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. I gave it a quick two rinses first and then began steeping it regularly. (Also you may notice a slight change in scenery in the pictures since I had this tea session outside).

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The dry leaves of this tea don’t smell like much, which is quite contrary to what I was expecting. I was expecting a strong, earthy punch like a fu cha. The scent is rather subtle and it possesses a slight earthiness (analogous to dry soil) along with an interesting twist of sweet vanilla and honey.

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The steeped leaves smell much more intense – very earthy (yet not grassy like a fu cha). The scent is a lot like wet tree bark with light vanilla undertones yet again.

The tea itself smells lightly woodsy and is reminiscent of an aged white tea.

The first steep after the rinses was quite light in flavor. The first taste is a smooth, woody flavor distinctly reminiscent of wet tree bark. A subtle sweetness comes through in the back with a vanilla undertone. There is a slight mineral component as well, with notes of wet sedimentary rock such as shale giving the tea a crisp, clean finish. A second steep emphasizes the notes of wet bark even more, introducing a stronger flavor and a slight textural change (it becomes a little crisper and more analogous to water). There is a slight aftertaste present here that reminds me of an old garage on a rainy day. Further steeps round out those wet rock flavors as the tea becomes a little more delicate and tastes a lot like fresh mountain spring water – full of bright crispness with a noticeable note of earth at the end. The flavor, to me, is a lot like an aged shoumei white tea.

Overall, this is a very interesting tea (and I mean that in a good way). It’s got the earthiness of a liu bao with the vanilla undertones of an aged shou mei, which I think is a lovely combination. I will definitely look into purchasing an entire brick of this because although it is $80 it is 450g which will last me a while.

Rating: 9/10
From: Yunnan Sourcing
Processed in Guizhou Province, Stored in Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region, China