Last Updated on 12/28/2020 by Desmond
In Chinese history, dark tea took an important position. For a long time, dark tea had another more official name Border-selling Tea. Almost all the dark tea production and sales must be under government manager, mainly for exchanging the border regions folk’s horse. And Anhua Dark tea was the best of them.
Anhua dark tea originated in Anhua, Hunan, one of the most famous dark teas, with source leaves are from large-leaf tea trees. The infusion shows amber, tastes mellow, and full of aroma. Anhua dark tea is basically sold in compressed tea style, typically needs long-time aging to increase the flavor.
Anhua Dark Tea History
Before the dark tea, Anhua was producing steaming green tea and white all the time. According to historical records, the tea-production of Anhua going back to the Tang Dynasty(1400 years ago.) And Anhua dark tea rise in Ming Dynasty(600 years ago.) At that time, the control by the government of tea reached an unprecedented level.
We’ve mentioned the Ancient Tea Horse Road before in the post about Zang Cha(Tibetan tea). In the Tang Dynasty, the tea-horse trading between central Chian and the border regions grew and developed a trade route called Ancient Tea Horse Road. Dark tea was born from green tea, which was fermented by the hot and wet weather in the long journey.
At the most beginning, Hunan took green tea as the main product but not dark tea. Or rather, it was rough tea. Then the rough tea would be sent to other regions for further processing. For example, Jingyang used the Anhua dark rough tea to produce Fuzhuan brick tea, famous for its golden flowers; or processed into Tibetan tea in Yaan, Sichuan.
At that time, a specialized department managed tea production and sale. All the teas were grading into 3 grades.
Gong Tea. The tea masters turned in the highest quality tea for serving the emperor and nobility.
Business Tea. Tea merchants got the government’s qualification and quota, then purchased teas from tea plantations and sold them in folk.
Official Tea. Most of the time, it refers to border-selling tea, mainly for the tea-horse trading to border regions and foreign, unified manager by the government.
Hunan has an outstanding natural environment and deep tea production history. Junshan Silver Needle tea(a yellow tea) from Hunan was always the market darling. The dark rough tea produced there also has full-flavor because of the large-leaf tea tree. One more significant advantage is, due to the mature industrial chain, Anhua tea can get a lower price; it has an excellent cost performance.
Anhua dark tea wasn’t still been as official tea. Even though smuggle tea was a capital offense at that time, face to the great benefits, many tea merchants and bandits still planned to do it. Anhua is near to the Ancient Tea Horse Road. Producing dark tea here and then smuggling teas to the border regions to exchange horses can earn big money. And due to the better taste and lower price of Anhua dark tea, it damaged the official tea business a lot.
Just like many popular industries nowadays, fake and low-quality products came soon in the huge profits and unregulated markets. The Ming government finally defined Anhua dark tea as an official tea, for better containment of them and supervised. When the Zang Tea from Yaan, Sichuan could not satisfy the border folks consumption, Anhua dark tea can take as a supplement.
However, After the cheap and fine Anhua dark tea got officially accepted, it became more loved by the border folks. Tea merchants purchase and sell Anhua tea reasonably, making it much more popular than other border-selling teas soon. A surprising thing is, due to its historical fame and often exaggerated health benefits, some fraudsters ever took Anhua dark tea as a stunt and organized a Ponzi scheme about 10 years ago.
Anhua Dark Tea Types
Anhua dark tea is classified into 7 types according to the source leaves quality and processing methods, three Jians, three bricks, and Qian Liang Cha.
Three Jians(tip) refer to the Anhua dark rough tea classified according to the source leaves quality. Most of the time, they also sell in loose tea style.
Tian Jian. Tian Jian tea is made from the leaves picked before Guyu(a Chinese Solar Term.) The picking standard is one bud to the second leaf, which are the tenderest. The final product’s leaves are tight, dark, and glossy. Infusion shows amber and clear, with a strong pine aroma. In the past, Tian Jian tea belongs as a tribute, only for the emperor’s consumption.
Gong Jian. Gong Jian tea is made from the leaves picked in early May before the hot summer comes. The picking standard is one bud to the fourth and fifth leaves. Some Tina Jian and Sheng Jian will be mixed into the final product. Gong Jian Anhua dark tea is a little lower than the Tian Jian in quality, but it still awesome, typically offer to the nobility and wealthy.
Sheng Jian. Sheng Jian tea is made from the leaves picked after May; the picking standard is one bud to the fifth and sixth leaves. Anhua dark tea leaves are rather old, and with many tea stems, so it tastes strong and more resistant to brew. It typically offers to the civilian.
Three bricks refer to the compressed teas made from the Anhua dark rough tea, mainly classified according to the processing methods.
Fu Brick. Fuzhuan brick tea is the most famous type. It has a unique processing step called “create flowers,” which makes many tiny golden flowers(Eurotium Cristatum) developed inside the bricks and brings many benefits. Even though it takes the Anhua dark tea as material, it is processing in the other place, Jingyang. It is said that without the Jingyang environment, the golden flowers are hard to grow in dark tea.
Related Reading: Why Fuzhuan Brick Tea With Many Golden Flowers In?
Black Brick. Anhua Black Brick tea is the traditional one. Due to it needs different grades of leaves to make, in the past, tea masters need to compress the higher quality leaves as surface and the lower quality ones inside. Later, Hunan Baixi Tea Factory improved the processing method, made the brick tea has the same quality inside and outside. The tea factory will also imprint its brand on the brick tea, so black brick tea is also called “Eight Letters Tea.”
Hua Brick. Hua means pattern design in Chinese. Hua Brick tea is from the improvement of the Qian Liang Tea. For distinguishing from the Black Brick tea, tea masters will imprint some patterns on the four sides of the brick, so it calls Hua Brick.
Qian Liang Tea
Qian Liang tea is the most traditional style of Anhua dark tea; the processing is similar to Tibetan Tea, which also compresses the leaves into a long strip bamboo container for post-fermenting and packaging. But the Qian Liang tea processing is more complicated.
The package of Qian Liang tea is divided into three parts. Inside, packing the leaves with a smartweed leaf. Then with a palm leaf cover for water and moisture resistance. Outside is a container weave by bamboo canes. Different from Zang Tea, tea masters put the leaves in but not separate them inside. Finally, compressing the whole bamboo container and leaves by methods such as treading.
In the old times, packaging the dark tea in this way is for better transportation and deal. Every unit weighs 1000 Liang(an ancient Chinese measurement, 1000 Liang equals 50 kg), so comes the name.
But the disadvantage of this packing also evident. Due to the large volume, and the leaves were compressing very tight, people need a hacksaw for help in taking the leaves. Later the tea masters cutting the fermented Qian Liang Tea into slices and processing into Hua Brick tea for sale.
How To Store Anhua Dark Tea
Different from the raw Pu-erh tea, Anhua dark tea has been certain aging before sales. So in the storage, there is no need to develop the golden flowers intentionally; all you need to care about is the proper storage environment. It should be a ventilate, average temperature, dark, and suitable air humidity place.
For the loose leaf Three Jians tea, you may choose a non-smell container. A cardboard jar may be a good choice; it can absorb the air’s moisture to prevent high humidity. If you don’t often take the leaves from it, it’s better to open it every 3-4 months to let the air inside getting change. But to the loose-leaf tea, it’s best to finish consuming ASAP.
And to the compressed Anhua brick tea, typically there will be a rice-paper packing. First, you should check the paper’s drying degree, make sure it hadn’t been damp. Then put the brick tea into a non-smell cardboard box, place it in a proper environment, and waiting for it to age patiently. The aging can long to dozens of year, and the flavor also improve and change by the time.
Related Reading: How To Choose A Tea Storage Container.
How To Make Anhua Dark Tea
- Pre-heat the teawares. Both Gaiwan and the ordinary teapot is OK, and the purple sand ones may be awesome;
- Pry the moderate amount leaves out with a small knife from the brick tea side;
- Put the leaves into a teapot, add 100℃ hot water, steep for about 20-30 seconds, then pour out the wastewater;
- Repeat the Step.3. Because Anhua dark tea is compressed tea, it needs to steep for a while to let the leave spread out and clean the dust;
- Refill the hot water, steep for about 1 minute;
- Pour the infusion into a fair cup to equal the concentration;
Anhua dark tea is made from large-leaf tea trees and has been post-fermentation so that it can be brewed over 8 rounds. You can suitably longer the steeping time from the fourth round according to the infusion concentration.
Except for the just-brewed, you can also imitate the drinking way of the Chinese minority.
- Pry moderate leaves for the brick tea, and put them into a small cloth pocket;
- Heat the water in a pot to boil, then put the teabag in;
- Cooking for about 10 minutes;
- Transfer the infusion to another pot with an infuser;
- Add some milk and salt in, stir;