|1994 Brick Heicha|
Here we have a brick tea meant for Tibetan consumption and thank god places like Chawangshop exist to allow people in the west to purchase the real nasty stuff. This brick is sold for $55, and interestingly enough Chawangshop also has a 1993 brick of what appears to be the same tea, but sold for twice the price at $108, apparently because it tastes better than the 1994 brick I bought. I have a feeling I know why, because my 1994 brick heicha has the real yak butt flavor. Just so you know what you're getting if you end up perusing the Heicha side of the Chawangshop catalog. This tea was made by the Yingjing Tea Factory in Ya'an City, Sichuan Province, and represents the Sichuan heicha tradition. The 1994 brick that I have also has the book article in the listing about how this tea is packaged up in such a way that three gams per side on that yak yields a balanced load. The fun bit is how the craftsmen sew up these bricks into untanned, soaked yak hides which then harden up around the tea to protect it from all sorts of weather on the way up to Tibet.
|Looks like what I raked up last fall in the yard, but these leaves have Tibetan neipaio|
The leaves are on the thin and papery side, the edges of the brick remind me of Wisconsin tree leaves that have sat on the sidewalk against the house all winter long. When you try and brush them away, they are stuck together in a flat pancake. I didn't weigh out my tea because my scale tends to be a bit inaccurate when I am trying to weigh lighter leaf teas such as this one, and such as Tai Ping Hou Kou, the scale just isn't sensitive enough to detect when I've added more. And the flat "chunks" I chipped off were too wide for my presentation dish and I need that dish when I weigh tea.
Brewed the tea in Yixing. I did four rinses, because I can definitely smell the funk here, what must be something like untanned leather, hence the yak butt. After the fourth rinse, most of the smell seemed to be gone. Poured myself a cup, which to my surprise tasted like...well...heicha. That black-tea-plus-shou flavor I've had in other heicha. This one had a spicy start and then, RAISINS. Yum, gave my leg a slap in glee. Tastes like mincemeat with a side of lard, or that cup of coffee after gutting a deer. I didn't just say that. I know the Buddhist vegans are falling over in a faint by now, certainly the ones in Madison who threw tomatoes at me when I wore vintage mink coats. Yet I wonder just how much fun the cuisine on that fantasy Lhasa retreat now appeals to those still dreaming of that type of vacation. Yessiree, how 'bout that boiled barley dough rolled up in a cuppa this untanned yak butt brick?? Heheheh.
|A lovely cup from one unattractive brick. Yum.|
Overall the tea is incredibly warming and yang. Three cups of this and I was sweating and had to remove my sweatshirt down to a t-shirt. But I am a cold weather person already, this tea is a good choice for cold weather like the Himalayas and Wisconsin. People here start wearing shorts and t-shirts outside when the temp crosses over 0 degrees C. Anyway, I only needed about 3 cups of this heicha to get overly warm. It still tasted of that "side of leather" after 5 cups, and started to thin out after 7 cups and believe me I didn't need any more at that point. I've noticed with other heicha that the first four cups or so are the best. Then again, I did four rinses and all those rinses wash away some of the tea at the start.
|Use a vessel much bigger than the dry tea so it can expand.|
|Vintage Belgian jars.|
Requiescat in Pace.