Tea Horse Road Ya’ An Hei Cha

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Hei Cha (fermented)

Bian Xiao Cha
Tea Horse Road Compressed Cakes

 

Appearance: fine leaf / bud pluck
Flavor: mature, smooth, sweet taste
Aroma: slightly woodsy, earthy
Liquor: dark red/brown color in the cup

 

Ya’An City
Sichuan Province, China

Hei Cha
Bian Xiao Cha (fermented)
2010 Production, Pressed in 2014
(7-years aged)

Note on Steeping Hei Cha:

 

Hei Cha is traditionally ‘rinsed’ before being steeped.
This is done with a quick application of hot water that is poured over the tea in the gaiwan or teapot and then immediately discarded. This rinse water is not drunk – its purpose is to help the leaves begin to open during steeping.
Use  additional appropriately-heated water for the 1st steeping and subsequent re-steepings.

 

Western-style steeping in a medium-large sized teapot 25-32 ounces:

 

Use 2 teaspoons (3 grams) of tea per 6 oz water
Use water that is 200°F- 210°F
Rinse the tea in your teapot with a quick application of hot water
Immediately discard this liquid
Add additional hot water to start the 1st steeping
Steep for 2-3 minutes
Re-steep this leaf up to 4 additional times

 

Asian-style steeping in a small teapot under 10 oz or in a gaiwan:

 

Use 4 teaspoons (6 grams) of tea per 6 oz water
Use water that is 200°F-210°F
Rinse the tea in your teapot with a quick application of hot water
Immediately discard this liquid
Add additional hot water to start the 1st steeping
Steep for 25-40 seconds depending on desired ‘strength’
Increase the steeping time an additional 5-10 seconds with each re-steep
Re-steep this leaf 4-6 times

This dark tea was manufactured in 2010 with spring harvest, first-grade yi ji material and stored in the traditional manner as  hei cha until it was pressed in 2014. These compressed mini bricks of tea were released for sale in 2018, and we have been supervising ours since that time.

This hei cha was made according to an old recipe dating back to the Tea Horse Road usually mentioned as ‘beginning’ in 1047 in Ya’An City in Sichuan Province (one of the gateways to the Trade Roads and the Tibetan Plateau). Ya’An was, and still is, strategically located at the junction of the famous tea-growing regions of western Sichuan Province and the trade routes leading to the north and west. Back in that time period, upwards of 7,500 tons of tea would move to Tibet in a year, most carried by the famous Tea-Horse caravans. A quality tea horse would trade for 50 kg of tea and there might be 2,ooo traders entering the Road from Ya’An per day.

We were fortunate enough to visit Ya’An in 2003, and attended a team-taught class by several of their top tea professors at the world-famous Ya’An Agricultural College, at the time the leading tea school in China. Since then of course, several other State Universities have significantly raised the bar of their tea curriculum, so universities in Fujian, Zhejiang, Anhui and other locations now challenge the reputation of Ya’An’s tea degree. However, Ya’An will always be the ‘Harvard’ of tea education in China, with its proximity to Mengding Shan with its international tea conferences and the generally historic nature of its pedigree.

Hei cha is a unique type of tea that requires post-fermentation in its manufacture, in the manner of Pu=-erh, Liubao, and other ‘dark’ teas. This ‘recipe’ has a more than 400-year history and can be known as ‘Border Tea’ (Bian Xiao Cha), due to its principle market being those who dwell in the regions formerly along the Tea Horse Road. The base tea leaf originated in many different famous tea-growing regions over time, including Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, and others.

Our current offering is manufactured from what is known as ‘fine leaf’, and more specifically: ‘fine bud grade’, due to the abundance of tips (buds) in the mix. Sweet, and earthy by nature, this superb example is also fresh, clean, and slightly woodsy – a perfect rendition of the form. There is a nice maltiness to this batch that interplays with a slightly nutty profile. This steeped tea lingers on the palate and provides refreshment for hours. The flavor and aroma are quite focused and in sync with each other, yielding a uniquely cohesive beverage.

Please note the steeping instructions in the accordions. This can be steeped either gong fu or Western style.