07 February 2008

Anxi Ba Xian, Taiwan Forest Black Tea

Anxi Ba Xian Oolong (from Jing Tea Shop)
Ba Xian is a varietal of oolong not as commonly grown in Anxi as tie guan yin varietals. I know of ba xian dan cong, but i'm unaware if they are of the same plant. I should ask Sebastien (JTS) and Imen (Tea Habitat). My guess is no.

Anxi Ba Xian - dry leaf

Let me first say that while in the past year, I learned to appreciate green oolongs more than before, I don't prefer them, especially in cold weather. This machine-harvested, machine-rolled green oolong wasn't so bad. But I don't have the tongue to catch the difference between this ba xian and other green tie guan yin.

Anxi Ba Xian - liquor

It began vegetal, metallic, and heavy. Overwhelming had it not had a creamy texture and coating hui gan. [Side note: I think my water might have something to do with texture/hui gan. Lately, no tea suffers here.] The aftertaste lasted minutes; my next sips came before it completely faded. With infusions, florals began to overtake the vegetal flavors, but a metallic taste came as I swallowed. The third infusion offered the best balance, with little metal and just a little bitterness, floral enough to make me imagine chewing an iris.

Unfortunately, the bitter became worse in later infusions, perhaps a Ba Xian varietal feature, perhaps just the usual green oolong bitterness. Unroasted dan cong does this more regularly. Perhaps the grapefruit implied in the name of the varietal reveals itself in this bitterness?

Anxi Ba Xian - spent leaf
Broken-edged leaves with few bud-stem combos: machine harvested & rolled. but not bad.

For the price though, it's hard to beat it. It yields stronger flavors than most cheaper green tie guan yin I've had, which tend to be all floral aroma and no substance. The vendor page says the tea was baked in a charcoal fire, but I didn't taste any honey or caramel in any of my brewings of this tea. Initially I thought the tea had little energy, but when I began to drink the black tea my body trip started...

Taiwan Yuchih Hong Cha ("Fish Pond Village Black Tea" - Forest Black Tea Brand)

Taiwan Yuchih Black Tea - dry leaf

During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, they planted Assam varietal tea bushes around Eryue Tan (Sun Moon Lake) in Nan Tou County. My Taiwanese friend told me on our journey to Sun Moon Lake that the black tea planted there gained notoriety when the first lady of Taiwan, the Mrs. Chiang Kai-Shek, called it her favorite tea.

Taiwan Yuchih Black Tea - liquor

Given the small chopped leaves, I expected little of this tea but bitterness. However, the little bits gave up flavor as evenly as the large, twisted leaves I drank on the shores of the lake in Taiwan. The packaging says it should taste of "osmanthus, cinnamon, and peppermint", but of the three, all I could only identify osmanthus. Osmanthus stuck through every infusion, even the very last watery 7th infusion.

I should have used more leaves.

Even the dry bits smelled richly fruity. The flavors of osmanthus and biscuit had little other flavor notes to accomodate them, but the monotony was pleasant. No astringency--perhaps this is what separates it from Indian Assam, or maybe my water, clay kettle, and alcohol lamp soften water efficiently. It did taste Indian, but not like Assam. This Taiwanese Assam tasted more like 2nd flush Darjeeling.

I couldn't tell if my head rush and body tingles were from this tea alone or the cumulative effect of both teas. A fun body trip nonetheless, and rarely do I call a black tea relaxing. I paired the tea with Liang Mingyue's Yang Guan San Die and Lo Ka Ping's Lost Sounds of the Tao, both beautiful qin solo albums that complemented the tea well. The bubbling of my kettle in the background matched their silk string tonality so well it seemed recorded into the track.

Taiwan Yuchih Black Tea - spent leaves

1 comment:

Imen said...

Anxi Ba xian is not the same as Ba Xian Dan Cong. Technically speaking it's not from Anxi. In the 80's, the Chinese government spent much emphasis on expanding tea agriculture to exchange foreign currency. Therefore new farms popped up everywhere. Zhao An county in southern Fujian is one of the new regions targeted by the communist party. Clones from Anxi and Wuyi were trans-planted, one of the varietals was planted in the valley of Ba Xian Mountain, hence the name of tea planted here. Zhao An Ba Xian is comparable to Tie Guan Yin in flavor, with higher production for better yields. For this reason, this varietal was trans-planted in 5 other provinces.