Aged & Rested Tian Jian 2014 hei cha

Hunan Tian Jian 2014 Basket-Aged

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Hei Cha

 

Hunan Tian Jian

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Flavor: a little dark red cherry and touch of spice on an undercurrent of rock-candy sugar creates a distinctive taste and long-finish
Aroma: clean, pine forest aroma
Liquor: pale burnt-amber colored liquor with a touch of gold

 

An’hua County
Hunan Province, China

2014 Late Spring Pluck
(5-years aged)

Note on Steeping Tian Jian:

 

Tian Jian is traditionally ‘rinsed’ before being steeped. This is done with a quick application of hot water that is poured over the tea in the gaiwan or teapot and then immediately discarded.The rinse water is not drunk – its purpose is to help the leaves begin to open during steeping. Use  additional appropriately-heated water for the 1st steeping and subsequent re-steepings.

 

Western-style steeping in a medium-large sized teapot 25-32 ounces:

Use 2 teaspoons (3 grams) of tea per 6 oz water
Use water that is 200°F- 10°F
Steep for 3 – 4 minutes
Re-steep this leaf 1-2 additional times

 

Asian-style steeping in a small teapot under 10 oz or in a gaiwan:

 

Use 4 teaspoons (6 grams) of tea per 6 oz water
Use water that is 200°F- 210°F
Steep for 25 seconds
Increase the steeping time an additional 5 -10 seconds with each re-steep
Expect to re-steep this leaf 4-6 times (or more!)

Tian Jian is a very interesting tea. We first encountered it several years ago and it was presented to us as a Chinese black tea (red) tea. I thought that it was one of the most delicious black teas that I had ever tasted and I still think that way about Tian Jian.

But we now know that the proper classification for this tea is Hei Cha or dark tea. Tian Jian is a specialty of An Hua county in Hunan Province, and an old-time, local production of Hei Cha that utilizes light fermentation to give this tea it’s own unique characteristic and flavor. The taste is forthright and distinctive but not overpowering.

So for those tea enthusiasts who love Liubao and shou Pu-erh, here is another tea in the fermented rainbow of tea from China to become familiar with.

This Tian Jian tea is really something special, and perhaps one of the most interesting teas that we offer. That is a pretty big statement considering the wealth of fantastic teas that we feature.

As Pu-erh is an historic, specialty tea made in areas of Yunnan Province; Tian Jian is an historic tea made in certain areas of Hunan Province. Our Tian Jian is made by a lady teamaker with a very fine hand and a great understanding of how to craft this unique, regional specialty.

The flavor of this Tian Jian is very nuanced and unlike anything else we have ever tasted. On first sip it has a clear, slightly resinous pine forest aroma and flavor. Subsequent drinking reveals a taste of dark red cherries (like Morello) and cherry stones with a slight suspicion of cinnamon & star anise. All of this is carried on an undercurrent base of syrupy rock sugar.

Tian Jian is dried over a smoldering pine wood fire, so the aroma of the tea has hints of pine and leather mixed with the clean smell of the forest floor after a cool spring rain. Tian Jian wears only a light smoking, so it is more similar to Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong than the bold, heavily-smoked, Western-export style of Lapsang Souchong.

Tian Jian is the top grade of three teas that are made throughout this region of Hunan – Tian Jian, Gong Jian and Shen Jian. Unlike shou Pu-erh, Tian Jian is only lightly fermented so it has very little of the fermented taste – in fact, with eyes closed, we think that some Tian Jian has an aroma that is reminiscent of a fresh, clean and subtle sheng Pu-erh or certain Maocha. In fact, Tian Jian is rather sweet and mild with the extra bonus of a little pine wood smoke to complete the seduction.

The leaf is thick and dark brown in color and is irregular in appearance. After firing, the leaf is packed in large bamboo baskets and stored in aging rooms with natural ventilation that allows the tea to continue to breathe and change. When the tea is ready to sell, it is repacked into smaller bamboo baskets or into paper boxes. Our Tian Jian is packed into  1 or 2-kilo baskets, depending on the preference of the tea producer.

The appearance of the tea is reminiscent to that of loose-leaf shou Pu-erh: brown and irregular in size and shape with a ‘dusty’ appearance prior to being steeped. This Tian Jian, when steeped, shows a beautiful deep-cordovan coloration and a glossy sheen that suggests to the eye the special depth of flavor that the palate is about to experience.  Tian Jian is generally not a fancy, hand-shaped leaf, but something simpler that is representative of China’s great body of regional teas that are unique, charismatic and delicious.

 

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