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.

Advertisements

image3

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.

image2

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.

image4

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.

image3

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).

image1

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.

image4

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

China ~ 2002 Aged Wild Liu Bao Tea | Yunnan Sourcing

Today I’m reviewing a liu bao dark tea from Guangxi Province in China.

image2

Hey everyone! I’ve been in absentia for the past week and a half since I’ve had to work a lot and travel to see family however I’m back reviewing another tea. I’m very excited for this one as well because it’s a liu bao tea.

Liu bao, if you don’t know already, is a variety of hei cha (dark tea) produced in Guangxi Province of China. Liu bao starts off as a black tea, however it is fermented throughout its aging process and then packed into baskets so it can be transported and sold.

According to livingtea.net, liu bao experienced a huge increase in consumption during the 1980s when massive quantities of the tea were sent to Malaysia for the Chinese immigrant workers. Only recently has liu bao had a major resurgence.

Now, my favorite type of tea is hei cha and you may not know this but my favorite type of hei cha is liu bao. I discovered liu bao tea when I was first exploring the world of dark tea and I’ve loved it ever since.

image1

The dry leaves are mostly whole and there are definitely some noticeable stems and twigs in the mix. As soon as I smelled the leaves, the first thing that came to mind was that of beets. Not the sweet scent you would associate with cooked beets but the earthy, soil-like scent of fresh beets. There are also slight vegetal notes that are reminiscent of sweet corn and a damp leaf scent that is commonly found in wet logs.

image3

The steeped leaves smell quite different – the soil notes of the dry leaves are transformed into a damp, mineral scent that is almost exactly like wet shale rock. It smells a lot like an underground root cellar, with damp soil scents present as well. There are even noticeable hints of leather and a touch of smoke.

The tea, when brewed, smells dark and woody like wet wood and has the earthy scent of fresh root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and beets.

The tea is silky and smooth in texture, which is common to aged hei cha. It tastes first of a vegetal flavor akin to cooked corn, which is then followed by earthy flavors of a forest floor with wet wood notes being very prominent. There are light, piney and rosemary notes that shine through a little as well. It ends on a mineral, wet shale flavor much like the smell of the steeped leaves. Further steeps bring out the earthy and mineral notes even more and it begins to taste almost like fresh spring water – with a distinct crispness along with the soil, mineral flavor that you would get from a lake fed by groundwater.

Overall, This is an amazing tea, and probably the best liu bao I’ve had. It’s flavor evokes memories of the lakes, streams, and forests of where I grew up here in Upstate NY and I absolutely adore it. This will be a fantastic addition to my tea collection and I’m going to search for even older liu bao teas to see how the flavor changes with age.

Rating: 10/10
From: Yunnan Sourcing
Wuzhou County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China