Yunnan AiLao Shan

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Black Tea

 

Yunnan AiLao Shan

 

Appearance: large grey-black leaf, well made with some twig mixed in. The tea presents a nice hand-made, village-production look.
Manufacture: traditional dian hong manufacture
Oxidation: fully-oxidized
Flavor:  fresh, fruity-ness mingled with a touch of eucalyptus and other forest scents. Light, soft and lean on the palate with a nice long – really long – finish which is unusual for black tea.
Aroma: clean and fresh with a forest intrigue. It has a polite touch of woody astringency, and a dryness that  hints at an abundance of aroma locked up in the large leaf waiting to be released upon steeping.
Liquor: lovely red-brown color in the cup

 

Zhenyuan County, Pu-erh (Simao) Prefecture
Yunnan Province, China

2017 Spring Pluck
(March, April)

Use 1.5 Tablespoons (2-3 grams) per 6 oz water
Steep 1 infusion at 3-5 minutes
Water temperature should be 190°F-200°F

 

Tasting Note:

 

This tea is absolutely delicious – one of the finest black teas that we have in our repertoire at the moment. If you are looking for a new tea to try or a change of pace, give AiLao Shan a try. The aroma is reminiscent of a hearty Assam black tea from northeast India (which makes some sense given the presence of Camellia assamica in these parts of Yunnan Province) but the resemblance stops there.

 

Our AiLao Shan has only a very polite touch of woody astringency in the aftertaste. The flavor has a nice long – really long – finish which is unusual for a black tea. Don’t be surprised if your batch of tea contains a few small un-opened dried tea flowers or two !

 

These teas are sorted by villagers who expect the flower buds to be there…. so not every one is removed!

Is Yunnan black tea dian hong or hong cha?

 

Terminology for Chinese teas can be confusing. For example, in China hong cha is the term for ‘red’ tea –  what we in the West call black tea. It can be used to describe any tea from any of the black tea producing regions of China. For example: one might refer to a Fujian Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong as a northern Fujian hong cha or a Keemun black tea from Anhui Province as an Anhui hong cha.

Conversely, hong cha teas of Yunnan Province are called dian hong instead. Dian is an old historical name for parts of today’s Yunnan Province, so dian hong is still how Yunnan black tea are referred to. Some say that dian hong should just refer to the modern-style plantation style teas and not the forest teas made from indigenous varieties of old tea bush varietals.
We, on the other hand, generally use the term dian hong to mean the opposite. Yunnan has such a long history of producing both Pu-erh and dian hong that we think dian hong should be reserved for tea in the historical since –  the traditional, small village teas made from forest gathered leaf materials.

 

On rested and aged Yunnan Dian Hong:

 

New harvest seasonal Yunnan black teas are delicious – but rested or aged versions of these teas can be twice as rewarding! Tea Trekker’s Yunnan black teas are plucked in various types of tea gardens – older plantation gardens and forested arbor bushes and trees (wild to semi-wild plants). Not all black tea ages well, but we find that hand-crafted teas from both Yunnan Province and regions of Eastern China keep and age wonderfully.

The bushes and trees that are plucked to make out Yunnan teas represent different generations of plants and are comprised of many unique cultivars found growing throughout the heavily forested mountain tea growing regions of Yunnan. These varietals and cultivars are broad-leafed varieties – known collectively as dayeh – that produce large, long leaves that reflect the richness of their forested habitat and the plants close genetic connection to the wild tea trees of Assam India – Camellia assamica. This habitat and size is one of the reasons why Yunnan black teas are so rich and full in the mouth.

 

Tea such as this offers the luxury of time as they will store well and maintain and develop flavor complexity for several years.  We love Yunnan dian hong and prefer to drink them when they have mellowed a bit – one or two years after manufacture. In most cases, the teas can be kept for much longer.

 

The key to ageing these teas is proper storage (cool and reasonable airtight – a ceramic jar is ideal) which will serve to underscore and preserve the inherent concentration of flavor elements that premium Yunnan leaf has in abundance.

 

Yunnan AiLao Shan dian hong is a long, slightly-thick, strip-style black tea made from old-growth tea trees. It yields a brownish-red colored liquor, a striking, exotic aroma, and elegant, slightly-sweet-fruity, smooth flavor in the cup. The appearance of the leaf shows careful hand tendering of this leaf and its size confirms that it is not a plantation-sourced tea. It is a classic example of a tea that shows much promise in its dry leaf form and then fulfills that promise and more in the cup.

Sourced from Zhenyuan Yizu-Hani-Lahu Autonomous County in the Simao area of Yunnan (and tended by the ethnic minorities that protect many of the village tea tree groves located there) our AiLao Shan dian hong is one of our most recent additions to Tea Trekker’s treasure trove of black teas from this tea-fantastic region of Yunnan, China.

Zhenyuan County spills across two mountain ranges – Wuliang Shan and AiLao Shan – that run parallel to one another, stretching from north to south in Simao Prefecture. These heavily forested, bio-diverse mountain areas are home to many wild tea trees and old cultivated tea groves that yield an astonishing array of unique teas with distinctive tastes. Each tea we taste from these regions is so different one to another – in a world that increasingly has a dark and gathering sameness we are grateful for that diversity and personality in the cup.

AiLao Shan dian hong is harvested from old-growth tea trees in the Zhenyuan area. This area produces some of our favorite Yunnan black teas that are delicious drunk both young and aged. Our AiLao Shan tea has been lightly oxidized so the steeped leaf may show some greenish-red color. The taste has a fresh, fruity-ness with a touch of eucalyptus mingled with other forest scents. Some teas from this area have an abundance of rich, buttery, caramel-sweetness, but this tea is light, soft and lean on the palate.

NOTE: We have recently shifted from offering the last of the 2015 Spring Harvest (which was a fantastic vintage, but alas, has all been drunk…) to tea from the Spring harvest of 2017. We do enjoy being able to offer several Yunnan black teas that have been either rested, or aged – and this is one that we do really know improves with a little maturity. It is drinking well now and should for several more years, perhaps as many as ten years (but who will be able to keep it that long? we certainly won’t be able to!) So this 18-month-old leaf is drinking well now and should be a real treat for all of our Yunnan black tea enthusiasts.

This leaf will age really well … want to know more?

img-more_aged New Tea, Rested Tea & Aged Tea