It’s still snowing here in the middle of nowhere, so I’ve just been hiding inside, reading books, and of course drinking tea so it’s a perfect time to do a tea review.
Today’s review is of my favorite type of tea in the world: heicha.
Heicha (or dark tea) is the classification of post-fermented teas that encompasses the widely-known pu-erh tea but there is a lot more out there that is so intriguing to me because of how unusual it is.
Pu-erh is fantastic in its own right, but what I love about heicha is how complex it is, how unusual it is – there are dark teas from all over Asia and even Africa and they all taste completely different. I love finding new dark tea from different countries and trying new things like Japanese goishicha or dark tea from Yunnan’s border regions like Laos and Myanmar.
Hence the tea I shall review today.
Today’s tea is a 2014 raw dark tea from the Kokang region of Myanmar’s Shan State (the country’s biggest tea producing region). Kokang is a largely Chinese region as it used to be a part of China, and the Chinese people living there have brought their tea making traditions with them. This tea is made in the style of pu-erh, however it cannot be classified as such because it is not from Yunnan Province.
I got this tea as a sample from What-Cha, but I’ve also seen it on Yunnan Sourcing (however Yunnan Sourcing identifies it as a pu-erh).
I wish I knew what farm or tea plantation produced this tea because I love having that knowledge and feeling a little closer to who made my tea, but otherwise I’m super excited to try this.
For this tea, I brewed the first steep at 190 degrees and slowly increased the temperature upon each steep.
The dry leaves smell dark, woodsy, and very earthy – much like the smell of a forest after it rains.
The steeped leaves smell a lot like the dry leaves, but a little stronger and more vegetal notes come out. There are some light, sweet, and woodsy notes along with a distinctive grassy, nutty scent that I associate with Chinese green teas.
The smell of the brewed tea definitely retains the light, sweet, and woodsy scent of the leaves but it lacks the vegetal, green tea-like scent I noticed before. The aroma is very much like damp leaves or hay.
The taste of the tea is a subtle, earthy flavor that transitions into a quite vegetal taste that reminds me a lot of Kashmiri green tea. It’s a little smoky and has the slightest note of astringency but it isn’t drying at all. The flavor is significantly reminiscent of wet leaves or hay. The aftertaste of the tea is very subtle, and has some of the woodsy flavors of a shou pu-erh tea along with the vegetal flavors of a green tea. As I re-steeped it, it gradually lost flavor but the flavor did shift to become a lot lighter and sweeter, and it lost some of its earthy flavors and retained the wet hay flavor I mentioned before.
Overall, this is quite an unusual tea, and I did not expect to get green tea notes from this at all. It’s a very interesting dark tea, and the novelty of it being from Myanmar is also pretty cool. As far as heicha goes, this is a very solid tea and I would definitely consider buying a full bing of this if I had extra money to spend.
Now that I think about it this tea tastes remarkably similar to a tea I found at a Burmese grocery store about a year ago – that tea had no labels so I didn’t know what kind of tea it was and the store owner just told me it was “sun-dried tea”. The wet hay flavor in that was very much the same as the wet hay flavor in this tea. I’m definitely going to go back to that market, order another sample of this heicha, and do a comparison because I believe that tea I tried a year ago may have been a dark tea.
Kokang Region, Shan State, Myanmar