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).
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.
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.
From: Yunnan Sourcing
Processed in Guizhou Province, Stored in Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region, China