Old Arbor Large-Leaf Feng Qing Black
We have quite a few Yunnan dian hongs in our selection, and this tea from that sub-group has some of the longest leaf of any of these extraordinary teas. If you haven’t been drinking these delicious, re-steepable, and easy-to-prepare teas, then you owe it to yourself to try them, and this could be the one to start with! This tea is made from large-sized, fresh leaf that is hand-plucked by villagers from the ethnic minorities that live in the high mountain forest areas. This tea was picked in late spring when the leaves had a full, rich taste and a concentrated aromatic. Tea from this type of old growth tea leaf material is known as De Ye Zhong.
From one of our favorite locations for both old-growth and modern plantings of hearty, flavorful tea bushes (Menghai), the leaf that is manufactured by the artisans who make this tea for us is simply exquisite. Whether you drink this tea as we do, neat, or choose to add whitener and/or sweetener to your cup, the flavor of this tea is deep, satisfying, full-bodied, and, well, just delicious!
There is a definite taste of caramel, although it is light, more like biscuit or toast; and also a clean style to the elegant large leaves. The aroma is clean, pure, and straightforward, like the hills on which the tea bushes thrive. It is easy to imagine these old growth tea trees that have mutated in the forests over time, making these trees distinctly different from other tea trees found in patches of forest in these mountains. It is a classic example of a tea that shows much promise in its dry leaf form and then fulfills that promise and more in the cup. It will improve with a little age and then be shelf stable. It can likely be drunk for years, if kept reasonably airtight, and may even become a ‘vintage’ tea – one that is special to drink many years down the road.
This is not a malty or ‘busy’ tea, like an Assam or complex Ceylon growth. But we love its straightforward elegance and simplicity, and it meets the demand for pure flavor and focused taste. Being a large, long leaf, Old-Growth Black is very user-friendly to steep.
Opening with the fruity, nutty, and cocoa-like aroma of the dried leaf, the tea liquor then yields a slightly spicy, chocolate aroma in the cup that is rich and appealing. The flavor of this ‘lot’ is a bit ‘bright’, actually, which is quite unusual for a Yunnan black.
The large leaf has plentiful tip present that is equal in length to the pluck – indicating the maturity of the trees from which the leaf materials were plucked. The long, elegant, twisted leaf has the beautiful dark brown color typical of Yunnan dian hong. The russet-colored tips provide a bright counterpoint to the dominant percentage of darker leaf.
The flavor of the steeped liquor is not the usual rich and hearty style of premium Yunnan dian hong. This tea has undertones of sweetness that suggest ripe melon and roasted nuts. There is a hint of grassiness in the top nose that lightens the inherent richness of the leaf and gives this tea some hay-like and bright qualities usually associated with a fine Chinese green tea.
It is almost impossible to over steep these leaves. We think that you could put on a cup or pot of this tea and forget about it for a half hour and it would still be exquisite when you remembered it. The one thing that is required of the tea preparer is that the proper amount of tea leaf by weight must be used. This means that if the measure is being made by volume measure (or by eye), then 3-4 times the expected amount of leaf must be used. This leaf is very lofty and does not weigh much, leaf by leaf. And it does not pack down in the scoop. However, it does re-steep two or three times (or more?!) depending on your taste requirements.
Old-Growth Black does not have a lot of ‘returning flavour’ (that phenomenon by which you taste the flavor of the tea hanging on the palate for varying lengths of time after swallowing). It is more of a clean break: swallow and it is gone. We call that a ‘clean’ taste, and it can be a preferred tendency, especially in a ‘crisp-style’ tea!
If you tend to short-steep your tea (2-3 mins) try adding more hot water to that leaf and steep for an additional 5-7 minutes. This second steeping may surprise you!