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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