Yunnan Old-Style Purple Varietal Ye Sheng Tea

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Black Tea

 

Yunnan Old-Style Purple Varietal Ye Sheng Tea

 

Appearance: large leaf, mixture of open-twist budset pluck and flat leaf. The leaf is an unusual dark gray/purple coloration, with some burgundy edging
Manufacture: traditional dian hong manufacture
Oxidation: fully-oxidized
Flavor: pure Yunnan dian hong flavor with ‘woodsy’ notes
Aroma: complex, warm but clean aroma
Liquor: medium-clear amber-colored liquor tinged with silver

 

Dehong Prefecture
Yunnan Province, China

2015 Spring Pluck
(April – May)

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

 

Steeping Tip:

 

We sometimes rinse this leaf as we do for an oolong or Pu-erh.

If  this tea is steeped for 4 minutes or less, this tea can easily be re-steeped in order to coax all the goodness from this flavor-packed leaf.

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.

This tea is really spectacular! The Yunnan black teas from 2014 and 2015 were quite special and are now becoming very difficult to obtain. While looking for outstanding examples of these ‘rested’ teas, I was recently able to source a quantity of this 2015 harvest Old-Style Purple Varietal Ye Sheng that is simply delicious.

I had to have it! and rather than drink it all ourselves, we are very pleased to share it with our Tea Trekker Yunnan black tea enthusiasts.

What a glorious treat for both a Yunnan tea enthusiast and for someone who has never tasted a wild-grown, old-tea-tree-varietal Yunnan dian hong. This tea was manufactured from a very old varietal of Camellia sinensis – the Ye Sheng varietal – which was identified and named even before the Assamica variety in eastern Assam, India.

This natural, local, indigenous varietal presents an argument for Yunnan being a strong candidate as the original location of tea as a wild plant. Grown around 2000 meters in altitude, it is a hearty tree that reflects the terroir of its forest habitat.

Starting with the dry leaf: expertly-formed large leaf tea shows an open, gentle twist. The color is completely unique – it is gray and brown and cordovan all at the same time and then there is an edging of a rich, dark reddish stain that is reminiscent of the color of burgundy wine in the glass. The wet leaf shows a similar profile, however the leaf takes on a modified hue.

The first prominent aspect of the aroma was a surprise to us – the aroma of the dry leaf was somewhat reminiscent of a well-made yan cha from the Wu Yi Shan in Fujian Province. What that tells us is that despite geographic distances, these old varietal tea bushes appear to have shared characteristics and complexities, plus richness and vigor and that have been bred out of today’s commercial tea bushes. There is complexity to spare in the aromatic quality of this tea: the allure of the earth-floor combines with mushroom and clean, dry moss to gently tease the palate.

When steeped, the aroma adjusts and clarifies, bringing in the softly spicy notes found in RouGui yan cha – what tea enthusiasts call “tea cinnamon”. This is a dry, slightly minty returning flavor that is quite pleasant as it lingers on the palate. It is this ‘dry’ component of flavor that we find particularly enticing in this tea, and a significant reason why this tea is unique.

This is an extremely unusual tea.  TeaTrekker contracted for very specific, premium-quality pluck of this 2-year-old tea. We believe we are the only source for this particular selection that we have.

It will improve with age for many months and should drink well through 2020.