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Sunday, November 6, 2016

CNNP Duoteli Yellow Box Super and Premium Heicha Dark Teas

Heicha time
The weather is turning cooler here. Well, sort of. We are still getting unusually warm weather for early November and in fact have not yet had a killing frost. The meteorologists are talking about breaking late frost records as old as sixty or seventy years. I’m sure the cold will hit any day now, and so I’m dusting off and rinsing out my clay teapots in anticipation of adding darker teas to my sheng routine. Yes, that means heicha, dark oolong and shou puerh teas.

Reverse view of the boxes
Luckily I have some new teas to try. Early last summer I noticed Chawangshop adding new heicha teas and more seem to appear in the shop every month. Chawangshop has the largest inventory of heicha that I trust for clarity and for the best flavor, although I am also hearing about some good heicha over at Yunnan Sourcing that I need to try too. Last June, I purchased these Liu Pao/Bao teas at Chawangshop and they arrived when the weather was too warm for me to drink them. Now I can give these a try without overheating too much.



This tea comes in a bag with two small punched holes at the top of the bag. The reason for this is because of its five year warehouse storage combined with the fact that this tea is not yet fully aged. The Tian Jian grade is due to the smaller, tippy leaves and the tea power they contain, unlike some liu pao heicha which are made of larger, lower grade leaves. Liu Pao is first oxidized slightly, like red (black) tea, and then fermented like shou for a few weeks. Then it is stored for several years packed in bamboo baskets and finally pressed or boxed for sale. The Yellow Box Liu Pao is a 1970s packaging design which hasn’t changed much.

Super Grade Yellow Box, note the tiny leaves.
Opening the bag I get a whiff of a fine musty warehouse, and the dry tea is exceptionally clean. This means the warehouse storage is already done for me, and I in the west can simply store this in my drier climate with a good chance this will age beautifully without a lot of work on my part. But I also need to work out some of the musty odor. Loose leaf heicha like this tends to give up its “money steeps” in the first five brews, unlike puerh which requires numerous brews to work off the storage. I need to get this tea in a condition where a single very quick rinse leads to excellent steepings right away. So, my session with this tea is as assessment of its current state and contemplation on where I think the tea might go in the future with a bit of storage.

I brewed a good heaping tablespoon of leaves and just enough water to cover them in my Jian Shui teapot which I reserve for dark heicha and wetter shou puerh teas because the clay tempers the storage a bit and rounds out the sweetness. I use boiling water for all steeps. Need to be quick on the rinse and the pouring of this type of tea, because it brews up strong very quickly.

Clarity is evident in the view of the spotty glaze on my cup.
Halfway through the first cup, the body heat hits like a truck. I’m an overly warm Slavic person and heicha like this makes me sweat and my feet swell up like a touring camel. This is a tea to drink in winter after a meal of roast beast. I need to be freezing cold to drink this, as are the folks in colder climate areas of Asia who use black heicha teas with milk or butter to supplement their meat diets and add calories in winter.

Surprisingly, this tea is still quite bitter despite the six years in damp storage, and well caffeinated. It is very powerful in the mouth with bitterness and hints of tangy dark fruits beneath the storage character. The tangy, metallic bitterness lingers in the mouth for about an hour or so, as well as the stomach and I feel hungry. Heicha like this is meant to supplement and digest a heavy meat diet. By “digest” I mean it gets the food moving through my digestive system, getting rid of that overly full feeling from a heavy meal. Drunk an hour after a meat meal, this will help remove the sluggishness and get mouth and stomach juices going with a bit of astringency. The storage character gets a bit minty after about three brews.

Leaves show some green left to age in the Yellow Box.
The storage flavor and bitterness still here means the tea is nowhere near its best yet. I remember the excellent 1980s Tian Jian I bought last spring, which is now also back in stock and one of the best heicha teas I’ve ever had, beneath a similar storage character where I found heavy sweet fruits and betel nut. This 2010 Duoteli Super Grade has the base material to develop deep fruit and a syrupy thickness in ten to twenty years. I got seven steeps before the flavor quit, even though the tea still had quite a bit of dark color. Maybe some aging will extend the brews to a couple more.

A dark Jian Shui teapot is a must for black, damp heicha and shou puerh.
By Crimson Lotus Teas who specializes in these.
You can get a 25g sample of this tea in a Wuzhou heicha sample set that Chawangshop is offering for $12. I highly suggest trying it in a sample first unless you already know you like wetter stored teas and you are prepared to let this age more. Of course it’s drinkable now, but I must be clear that it’s a tea for sampling at the moment and not something a tea beginner should run out and buy. It will not have the complex character of puerh, and I think only experienced drinkers know what I mean about tasting a heicha tea for further potential. Heicha is what it is, a quick digestif and, in my case, a good substitute for the shot of Jaegermeister I used to drink after heavy pasta. Yes, Jaeger might be gross, but a small shot is a good digestif and not the swilling beverage some people regret drinking too much of. My new Duoteli is a tea equivalent. I will store it in an unglazed clay jar to work off the storage over the winter.


This tea helpfully includes a can for storage, one of those with the second interior lid, making the can useful later on for storing oolong tea. The production date on the can is marked as 2010, Chawangshop states that the tea has “buds” from 2009 spring harvest, and the can also has 2011 on it.

Unboxing the Premium Grade Liu Pao.
I have a feeling the tea contains leaves from several years that were processed together, first oxidized lightly and then fermented like shou. After fermentation, the tea was packed into large bamboo baskets for three years before packing into this can and box for sale.

This type of can keeps tea dry
and is useful later for storing roasted oolong.
Visually the tea is not very different from the Yellow Box, but the storage is much lighter. Just a touch of basement on the wet leaves, quite perfect really. This tea is also much further along in fermentation without the green pieces of the Yellow Box tea. 

Premium grade has a little rougher leaf.
I notice this tea is a much thicker, more syrupy brew but I’m not sure thickness in heicha translates into more flavor. Liu Pao really isn’t a tea you drink for complexity anyway.

A reddish brew shows this one is more heavily fermented,
but still qualifies as medium/heavy.
Slightly tangy on the tongue, this tea is very smooth and ready to drink now although a bit more resting time might fade out the slight storage flavor. My dark Jian Shui teapot tempered this level of damp perfectly into a mineral flavor. The brew is reddish brown like shou and more typical of the Liu Pao teas I have in my collection. Very comfortable to drink but lacks the intensity of the more lightly fermented Yellow Box. This one fades out in five brews or so, again more typical of Liu Bao. It also lacks the lingering flavor in the mouth of the Yellow Box. But the tea is clean and I can easily feel comfortable suggesting it to a heicha newbie. However, of the two teas the aficionado is going to prefer the Yellow Box for value (50g more for the same price) and for the aging potential. The Yellow Box is the more intense tea by half, but the wetter storage justifies the lower price equal to the drier stored 8110.

I did not see any golden flowers  in, either of these teas, and I don’t know if they were inoculated to produce jin hua. Golden flowers called eurotium fungi are often grown using wheat as a base and then the wheat-grown spores are added to the tea, so something to consider for people of gluten sensitivity. Personally I love jin hua and crave that tangy flavor. My attempts to increase jin hua growth over the summer on my Fu Zhuan bricks produced a consistent growth of small flowers throughout, but not the huge flowers I see coming from more humid climates. I’m still chasing the fabulously crusted Fu from my friend in Washington, DC that I tasted last summer. My success in growing highly floral jin hua may be limited because of my drier climate but I plan to keep on trying.

Some bits of green, but mostly ready to drink.
Chawangshop now has nearly one hundred products listed in the heicha category. Browsing through them all now, I see many that I would love to try, such as the 1990s bricks that were added just recently. Highly aged puerh is out of the world price-wise for most of us, but border teas are low priced and still available from the 1980s and 1990s. Heicha is worth buying now while you can for an easy and comforting drink. For old people like me, heicha aids our slower digestion and irregularity. Heicha like these boxed teas are very warming to cold bones in the winter too, easy to store and convenient to brew up.



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