The farthest I go, the more I realize I know nothing…and I will probably never get to become fully knowledgeable in this lifetime. Unless I become It, but that is certainly more challenging than trying to learn about It!.” -JMM
When I started this journey, I thought that I should become more knowledgeable in order to be able to share it with others. But, the farthest I go, the more I realize I know nothing…and I will probably never get to become truly “tea knowledgeable” in this lifetime. So, I stopped doing any effort to know specific details about the teas before I try them. Especially if I trust the source from where I get them. I have come to believe that it is perfectly fine if my perceptions about a tea can resulted different from others, as our reference experiences can also be different, especially when speaking about tasting profiles. Now, I basically go “blind” at my first sessions with any new tea, and if it confuses me enough, then I try to know a little bit more about it.
That happened when I received a complimentary tea sample from Bitterleaf Teas that had only handwritten Black Tea (Gushu?) on top of the package.
“Gushu?!!! Black?!!! Hmmm…interesting!!!”...I became instantly intrigue about it! I have had “Young Gushu” from Chinalife
as my first experience with a Raw Pu-erh tea and I love it so much! It is the one I recently post about it again at @myteaflow and described it as “Immortal Memory”…and now that I’m writing and recollecting my experiences, that description makes even more sense for me. I adore when the teas reconnects me with my childhood and home, and I mean my own country as home! This have become my own “standard of quality”! 😉
“Young Gushu” brought me back to the aromatic sweetness and the moments when my brother and I used to pick up and eat yellow rose apples during our childhood adventures to the river.
They are now extinct, so you can imagine my joy when I unraveled that memory through “Young Gushu” …and how excited I was to try now this black “Gushu”! The rest of the story I will share as it happened through an informal conversation between the benefactor of this tea, Jonah Snyder from Bitterleaf Teas, and me.
November 2, 2016
Me: Hi Jonah! I got my new order…those Gaiwans are really beautiful!!! Thanks! The tea sample…very intriguing!?
Jonah: Oh man…what did I give you? Haha, I forgot! Was it maocha?
Me: Some black tea!?
Jonah: I remember digging around for something a bit different…Yeah, that’s some ancient tree black tea!
Me: Now, I’m very tempted! Which are your parameters of leaf per volume of water for this one?
Jonah: It was a sample, not the same as our Sabertooth (+ video)…The temperature should be slightly cooler, especially if you get any sour notes (90-95 C). Ratio for gong-fu is standard 1g:15mL or 1g:20mL…We have so much good tea and samples around, I figured we should share! Too hard to drink them all, and I can’t bear to think of it going to waste.
Me: Totally understand…and I’m very happy and grateful for that!
Few hours later…
Me: Jonah, did you get to try this tea?!!!
Jonah: I did, but it was a while ago…The only reason we didn’t stock it was because the price was about 2.5 times more expensive that the ancient tree black tea we went with! And ours is already not cheap, so you can imagine how hard this would be to sell, no matter how good.
Me: I understand! It is a black or a red tea?
Jonah: Both! Haha! Red tea in China (and Taiwan) is called black tea in the west. The names get interchanged quite easily though, depending on how the vendor likes to label it…Honestly there’s a lot of confusing things with tea classification…It gets messy, especially when translating!
Me: Yes, it is so true and that is why I got confused. It is interesting because by the color of the dry leaves I wouldn’t expected the liquor to be so “red”…like your Sabertooth is more coopery. And I have had also a ‘raw Gushu’. I thought all “Gushu” teas coming from ancient trees from Yunnan were processed as pu-erh? However, the liquor color, aroma, and taste reminds me of some Taiwanese red teas I have had…kind of flowery aromatic, fruity and spicy, like cinnamon, and then I finally unraveled some aroma and taste of rose apples, but of the red ones…I love when teas confuse me! This one has almost resumed for me all I have had recently. Thanks for sharing this tea with me!
Some hours later…
Me: I just read this in Wikipedia about Dian Hong teas…so its true! It is red, it is black, and once also a pu-erh!! Where is the confusion?! Hahaha!!!
Dianhong tea (Chinese: 滇紅茶; pinyin: Diān hóng chá; literally: “Dian Lake red tea”; pronounced is a type of relatively high-end, gourmet Chinese black tea sometimes used in various tea blends and grown in Yunnan Province, China. The main difference between Dianhong and other Chinese black teas is the amount of fine leaf buds, or “golden tips,” present in the dried tea. Dianhong teas produces a brew that is brassy golden orange in color with a sweet, gentle aroma and no astringency. Cheaper varieties of Dianhong produce a darker brownish brew that can be very bitter.
Teas grown in Yunnan prior to the Han dynasty (206 bce – 220 ce) were typically produced in a compressed form similar to modern pu-erh tea. Dian hong is a relatively new product from Yunnan that began production in the early 20th century. The word diān (滇) is the short name for the Yunnan region while hóng (紅) means “red (tea)”; as such, these teas are sometimes simply referred to as Yunnan red or Yunnan black. However, such references are often confusing due to the other varieties of teas produced in Yunnan. -Wikipedia
Jonah: Hahaha! Yes, that’s all correct! Basically ancient/old trees are usually used for puer…More recently people have used the same trees to make black tea (red in China) with great results. A lot of producers have also been adjusting the level of oxidization for their black teas, maybe under oxidizing them slightly. Black tea from Yunnan (Dian hong) was only started during WWII, so it’s quite new compared to puer. It was supposed to be a replacement for qímén, which was too close to Japanese front, and tea needed to still be exported in order to keep fighting.
Me: Wow, very interesting!
Jonah: A lot of this high end Dian Hong (+ Introduction) can be quite different, kind or like Oolongs. But that’s what makes them fun!
Me: Yes! It is really amazing how diverse tea can be even in the same ‘place’…it is always mind-blowing!
- Broken Yunnan (Chinese: 滇紅碎茶; pinyin: diānhóng suì chá): A cheap tea used for blending which contains very few golden buds and is generally bitter on its own. This tea is easily identified by the largely black dried leaves with only a few bursts of golden tips. The brew is dark and not brassy but reddish brown. The taste can sometimes be as strong as cooked pu-erh tea. Classified in Orange pekoe grading as BOP.
- Yunnan Gold (Chinese: 滇紅工夫茶, 滇紅; pinyin: diānhóng gōngfū chá): A dianhong with fewer golden buds and more dark tea leaves. It is on par with the pure gold, and is priced similarly, but makes teas with slightly different characteristics. The brew has a brassy red color different from other black teas and a vivid sweetness not quite as intense as “Yunnan pure gold“. Classified in Orange pekoe grading from OP to TGFOP.
- Yunnan Pure Gold (Chinese: 金芽滇紅茶; pinyin: jīnyá diānhóng chá): Considered the best type of Dian hong tea. It contains only golden tips, which are usually covered in fine hairs. When viewed from a distance, the dried tea appears bright orange in colour. The tea liquor is bright red in colour and exhibits a gentle aroma and a sweet taste. The leaves are reddish brown after being brewed. Classified in Orange pekoe grading from TGFOP to SFTGFOP.
- Golden needle (Chinese: 金针茶; pinyin: jīnzhēn chá) is a pure black variety of dianhong. The leaves are golden in color and yield an amberish infusion.
Everyone who follows @myteaflow at Instagram must already know that I am a huge fan of Bitterleaf Teas tea-ware. They are exquisite, elegant, very affordable, and for me, being in this part of the World, also very accessible in terms of shipping and handling rates and efficiency. Besides, everybody knows they are masters in safety packaging the tea-ware and also very generous sharing tea samples of their amazing teas in every order!!! Those who are not already fans of Bitterleaf Teas is because they do not know them yet! ;-D …as the quality of all of their products let them enjoy of great reputation among a vast group of tea lovers. Their accessibility, humbleness and willingness to support and share their wisdom with all of their clients is another great asset. For me, this direct contact with the sellers and other tea lovers has become my best way to learn about tea, and about the spirit of friendship the tea inspires in everyone who enjoy It!
Jonah…thanks for the attention and the amazing effort that Bitterleaf Teas always invest to provide us with the best products, service, and friendship…to our own Flow!!!