This incredible eastern China black tea has a fabled, complex history. One of the three revered congou teas of Fujian Province in coastal eastern China, Tan Yang Cai Cha is often regarded as the finest of the group, and it is certainly the most difficult to procure. We here at Tea Trekker have been tasting samples of it for years; and this year, for the first time, a supply of it that we liked was available for us to purchase.
We love this family of black tea: the Bai Lin; Golden Monkey; Panyang; Jin Jun Mei; Yixing Black; Lao Shu; Dan Cong Black and etc. – the family of ancient /artisan black teas from the major tea producing provinces in eastern China. These are sometimes referred to as the ‘gong fu’ styles of black tea; which are considered by many tea experts to be somewhat of a grouping, (the way that the dian hong are, in the southwestern part of China). The chief characteristic that these ‘gong fu’ teas share is the smooth, darkly-steeping, and rich taste that they all have, with strong attributes of cacao and caramel flavors, with elements of a plum jamminess in the aromatics.
The leaf of our Tan Yang this year is sturdy and substantial; not the slender, delicate and slightly twisted style of Bai Lin or Jin Jun Mei. Tan Yang is a tippy Fujian black tea of a more mature style; while it is still classified as a gong fu tea: that is, tea that is skillfully made and exhibiting excellent crafting. Each particular pluck may or may not show contrasting tip, This particular leaf is a Gong Fu Grade AA (the top grade for several of the teas in this family) so features large, late-spring-plucked leaf that provides the abundant sweetness of an earlier pluck without the astringency often found in fully mature, later-spring plucks. This is the same highest grade as our Bai Lin, and shows that it has the flavor characteristics that the grading demands, without consideration for the size of the leaf. Because of the weather in the spring of this year, this large-leaf Tan Yang is a stunner, and breaks most of the traditional assumptions regarding the size profiles of the various spring plucks. If you like your whole leaf tea to be of a certain size – wonderfully large – as we do; then this is a tea for you!
Tan Yang Cai Cha is a Chinese black tea for tea enthusiasts who enjoy the style of ‘fruity’ Chinese black teas, Yunnan old-tea-bush varietals, and slightly malty, estate-grown Assams. Tan Yang has the soft flavor profile and underlying sweetness that is characteristic of only a few premium Chinese black teas. This generally warm, full-bodied tea also has a bit of pull and astringency, which gives it a chewy mouthfeel and bright, snappy flavor. The aroma offers clarity, but with a raisin-y, cocoa-y complexity that makes it hard to pin-point as to what tastes will follow in the cup.
The major tea-producing town of Fu’An, Fujian Province (of which Tanyang Village is a part), makes old-style black teas that are processed in a similar fashion to the methods used in neighboring towns for our Golden Monkey and Bai Lin teas. This was one of the first regions to make black tea back in the 17th century, and several of the other teas from this small region have gone out of production due to Fujian’s need to increase production of oolong and white tea. The locally-derived leaf used for our Tan Yang tea, the Cai Cha cultivar, was at first used for a delicious and famous classic Fujian green tea; however, today it is used primarily for this special black tea.
Sip it neat (plain) and you should find that no milk or sugar is needed. However, if you add your usual accompaniments, that will be fine too.
Follow this link to watch a short video in a China Daily article about how important tea is in Tanyang Village: