|Old lady tea.|
|Dunno why I want to preserve the wrapper. Hoarding...|
This tea, like many heicha, is a local craft tea. In this case we have a farm product from Zhulinxi, Jiangan town, Anhua county. The tea is woked, then fermented lightly, smoked and finally stuffed into bamboo shoot shells which are tied by hand. The photo of the old lady hand-tying the tea shells on the front sold me. She died in 2008 at the age of 106. While I don't expect to live so long, her family attributes at least some of her old age to drinking tea. She belonged to the Huang family, the most famous member of which was Qing dynasty calligrapher and industrialist Huang Zi Yuan and he gave the tea its name. The old lady on the wrapper was a child bride to Zi Yuan's grandnephew. Calculating from her age, the craft has been passed down in the family since the 1800s at the very latest.
As with any local craft product, I must adjust my expectations of the tea based on the price. At $21 for 200g, this is a bit on the higher side for a young-ish heicha, but in terms of fermented tea, obviously on the low end if you are comparing a shou puerh in price. I'm not a collector who chases highly aged Liu Bao or other heicha, and while I can appreciate the desire for the smoothness that age brings, I like to know something about the local people who make a tea, which I just don't get from a warehouse basket find. I like a few years of age on a heicha, time to settle and develop flavor, but I'm mainly looking for a change from shou puerh and heicha has a tanginess that shou puerh generally lacks.
|Plushy and clean leaves.|
|More caffeine than I expected.|
Early notes are the betel nut that we look for in some heicha, and bamboo flavor from the wrapping. Steep 2 in particular had the strongest flavor. I noticed the tea fading at steep 4, but prolonging the steeps got me a couple more decent cups. I drank this before dinner and got a bit jittery from the caffeine. Usually heicha lacks strong caffeine and I end up in a nap.
Mainly I noticed this is an extremely clean tea, none of the dirty or dusty/musty that may turn off folks who have looked at heicha in the past. I would feel comfortable serving this to anyone who likes black/red tea, and can recommend this brand to people curious about heicha. This is about as elegant as you can get with heicha. I'll be glad to hang on to this for guests, while I go dig out my golden-flower Fu teas for a little fungus action. I've definitely acquired a taste for the messy and more alive heicha teas.