Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Questions About Dark Tea


I had posted an entry about dark tea last week and Peter, a reader  posed the following question -

"I've been to Penang and seen that these giant bricks are very popular with older tea drinkers. Is it because they are so cheap? There are tea shops that seem to only sell these teas."

He was referring to those very heavy (about 1.5kg) bricks that you see in the 2nd pix

Here is my response:

1.  Yes, Peter you are right about black tea is generally cheaper than say oolong or pu erh tea. Gram for gram, those black tea bricks whether the small (1st pix) or larger bricks (2nd pix) are cheaper than pu erh tea. 

2.  One reason is that there is a much larger pu erh (or oolong) tea drinking community than the black tea drinker groups. There is also a very large group of pu erh collectors that buy to store for  investment. It is actual commodity trading except this time its pu erh tea. It is interesting to know that many limited and high end pu erh factory productions for the past 10 years are often sold out at product launch. These tea are never drank but are bought and sold like trophies. As far as I know, these black tea bricks are mainly purchased for drinking. Yes, there are collectors that aged these black tea bricks to sell but these resold black tea are usually bought up to be consumed. 

3. Black tea includes other fermented tea that include liu bao and ripe or shou pu erh. Older versions of these tea can be quite expensive now. 

Who knows. Black tea bricks may be the new investment tea in the next few years. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

A Crash Course On Black Tea

I was in Penang, Malaysia last week.  I was at the food fair and there was an area in the food expo devoted to Chinese tea. There were not many tea booths there.  A little disappointed but the fabulous local Penang food made my stay there very enjoyable.

I was fortunate to meet a hardcore black tea drinker and I learnt many things from this new tea buddy. Here are the things I learnt about black tea.  

1.  The local tea community here in Malaysia called Black tea as dark tea than black tea.  Dark tea is considered Chinese tea that had undergone deliberate fermentation during tea processing before the tea is sold.  Hence, according to my tea buddy, tea like ripe/shou pu erh, liu bao,  Si Chuan Tibetan tea, AnHua gold flower tea and the famous BaiShaXi famous black tea bricks are all regarded as dark tea. It appeared to me the dark tea categorisation of fermented tea is quite broad.

2,  I was told dark tea in Malaysia are brewed 2 ways. The first is kung fu cha style.....add tea leaves in a tea pot and brew as you would would with other Chinese tea like oolong or pu erh. The 2nd way is to boil the tea. I was told to brew 8g of tea with 500ml of water.  Boil the tea at a slow simmer for 5-10 minutes and the tea is ready to drink.   This is similar to Chinese herbal brew where you add 3 bowls of water to a bag of herbs and boil till about 2 bowls of  herbal tea is left.  The dark tea will be extremely aromatic and strong and the taste is more complex. I cannot wait to try this boiling method. 

3.  I was told that dark tea needs a minimum of 5 years of storage before the tea is ready to drink. I was taken to a Chinese tea shop in Penang and bought some tea to start my dark tea adventures. The 2 bricks in the 1st pix are at left a 2015 Baishaxi 1.6kg black tea brick, The yellow box is a year 2000 Si Chuan Tibetan 1,7kg brick. The 2nd pix showed a 2019 gold flower Anhua tea. This tea has gold flower mold introduced to the tea during processing.   The white wrapper is a 500g slice 2021 Chian Liang Cha. This is an actual slice from a 30kg tea log.  I also managed to get a 2kg bag of black tea stems. I was told boiling these stems would give off a very strong Chinese herbal medicinal taste. 

I look forward to start my dark tea adventures.