Fuzhuan Dark Tea (Fu Zhuan Hei Cha) 2017
€6,90 – €99,00
Fuzhuan Cha is a dark tea from Anhua County in southern China’s Hunan Province. As such, it is a post-fermenting “Hei Cha” made from the leaves of local large-leaved tea tree varieties using the ancient method of dark tea processing. A specialty of Fuzhuan Cha is the “inoculation” of the probiotic mushroom “Eurotium Cristatum” in the characteristic, loosely pressed tea brick. In terms of taste, grainy sweetness harmonizes with the characteristic Hei-Cha note, reminiscent of leather, in a silky texture.
For more information and illustration refer to the product description below.
Fuzhuan Cha Hunan Dark Tea
Fuzhuan Cha is a dark tea from Anhua County in southern China’s Hunan Province. As such, it is a post-fermentation “Hei Cha” made according to the ancient method of processing dark tea. Like all dark teas, it is based on the leaves of local large-leaved tea tree varieties. A specialty of Fuzhuan Cha, however, is the inoculation” with the probiotic fungus “Eurotium Cristatum” (= “golden flower”) as part of the processing. The fungus then grows in the course of the subsequent ripening process and spreads within the pressed tea brick. In addition to producing a type of sugar that is taste-relevant in a positive sense, the fungus is responsible for the proliferation of desirable polyphenols in the tea.
In terms of taste, a grainy sweetness harmonizes with the characteristic Hei-Cha note reminiscent of old leather in a silky texture.
What is Dark Tea (Hei Cha)?
Dark tea or “Hei Cha” is one of the 6 elementary processing categories of tea. It’s most characteristic feature is the so-called “wet piling” of the tea leaves as part of the processing. The related special type of fermentation consists in changes in the biochemical composition of the tea leaf induced by microorganisms. A Chinese term for this part of the processing of dark tea is “wo-dui”.
Dark tea is expressly not to be confused with what we call black tea in the west. This in turn is called “red tea” (= “Hong Cha”) in China. The Chinese name referring to the cup color instead of the color of the dry leaves keeps causing confusion among Western tea drinkers.
Types of Dark Tea
A requirement for the production of dark tea is the local presence of large-leaf tea tree varieties. Dark teas therefore only occur in 5 provinces of China, namely Guanxi, Sichuan, Hunan, Hubei and Yunnan. At this, each region has its very own Hei-Cha tradition. These in turn differ in their individual characteristics of processing, pressing and packaging for transport . In this context it is also interesting to know that the processing of yellow tea also involves a “wo-dui” process.
The best-known type of dark tea outside of China is the ripened (“shou”) Pu Erh tea. As to that, many sources date the invention of the “wo-dui” method to the 1970s only. However, this is not entirely true. Because dark tea – and thus the method of piling the (still moist) tea leaves – has been around since the time of the Song dynasty and thus for around 1000 years. For the maturation of “shou” Pu Erh, however, the ancient method underwent two major modifications. One of these was to extend the process from about 1 day to up to 2 months. And the other was adding water at the beginning of the process. Despite their shared processing characteristics, matured Pu Erh teas therefore taste significantly different from dark teas of other origins.
The History of Dark Tea
At the time of the Ancient Tea-Horse-Road Hunan was one of the provinces, from where tea was transported north on that very trade route. Now the long journey on foot and with mules as a means of transporting tea took a very long time. As a result, the tea kept getting wet on the way, but could not dry well due to the cramped transport conditions. This is why the tea finally reached its end customers – mainly Mongols, Tibetans and Uyghurs – in a changed condition. While the producers and traders originally considered this rather undesirable, it soon became apparent that the end customers really appreciated this changed condition. Accordingly, ways were soon found to bring the tea into the desired state during processing already. With this, the tea’s continued maturing during its long journey was no longer a problem either…
As in other provinces, dark tea soon became subject to further diversification in Hunan, too. At this, the most outstanding type of Hunan dark tea might be the Fuzhuan Cha. This is because of its “inoculation” with spores of Eurotium Cristatum as a last step of processing. The center of production of this special type of tea within Hunan is the district of Anhua.
Fuzhuan Cha – Picking
The traditional picking time for Fuzhuan dark tea is in summer. For the best taste of the finished tea, a good share of older leaves is a necessary part of the picking standard. The picking standard for this tea is therefore about the top five leaves of each branch. The comparatively low liquid content of the older leaves enables the leaves’ initial heating without any withering phase.
picking standard : uppermost 5 leaves in summer
Fuzhuan Cha – Processing
The processing of Fuzhuan Hei Cha is roughly dividable in 6 major steps:
The Initial Heating of the Tea Leaves
The first processing step takes place in a large, thick iron wok pan heated by a wood fire. The older leaves in particular need high temperatures to achieve the suppleness required for further processing. When the tea leaves have turned dark green and the grassy smell has given way to an intensely fresh fragrance, the first heating is complete.
The First Rolling
The processing of Fuzhuan dark tea involves two times of rolling the tea leaves. The first of these takes place in the rolling machine immediately after the first heating, when the leaves still have a supple, sticky consistency. The mechanical rolling breaks up the cell walls and promotes the even distribution of the tea juices in the leaf. This in turn has a decisive influence on the taste of the finished tea.
rolling of tea leaves in the rolling machine
Wet Piling (= “wo-dui”)
The next elementary processing step is the “wet piling”, which characterizes the processing category (= “wo-dui”). To do this, the tea leaves are first piled up and then covered with large palm leaves (earlier) or a plastic tarpaulin (today). Unlike with shou pu erh tea processing, no additional water is added to the layers. The processes taking place during the following 12-24 hours instead make use of the relatively high residual moisture.
The Second Rolling
After this follows a second rolling of the still quite moist and supple tea leaves in the rolling machine.
Baking / Roasting of the Tea Leaves
The ensuing penultimate processing step consists in roasting / baking the tea leaves on a special “Qi Xing Zao” stove. This is a large stove made of bricks and cement with a large rectangular bamboo bed for the tea leaves. A pine wood fire burns underneath, expressly not avoiding the associated smoke development. The resulting smoky pinewood aroma is a defining characteristic of Fuzhuan Cha and other traditionally processed Hunan dark teas. Baking / roasting is complete when the residual moisture in the tea leaves is so low that one can be easily crumble it between one’s fingers.
The result of this processing step goes as “Hei Mao Cha”. It is the raw material serving the production of different types of Hunan Hei Cha by further processing and pressing.
“Fahua” (Inoculation of Eurotium Cristatum)
“Fahua” refers to the inoculation with spores of probiotic fungus Eurotium Cristatum in the drying room under controlled humidity and temperature conditions. For Fuzhuan Cha, the Hei Mao Cha then undergoes pressing into relatively loosely pressed bricks. At this, the loose pressing is a deliberate choice, giving the fungus room to grow and spread. Its growth then leads to an increase in the content of polyphenols and the formation of a type of sugar. While the former is responsible for a long list of claimed health benefits of Fuzhuan Cha, the latter has a very positive effect on the taste of the tea .
The entire processing process takes about 3 weeks before finally reaching a residual moisture level of less than 6%.
There are several different approaches to preparing dark tea. That is, the preparation of Fuzhuan always requires breaking the required amount of leaf off the brick first. Because of the loose pressing, this can easily be done with bare fingers. Then, depending on dosage, style and number of infusions, there are 3 basic types of dark tea preparation:
“Gong Fu Cha” means preparing a tea with relatively high dosaging over a long series of rather short steeps. That is, dosaging starts from 6g leaves per 100ml water and infusion periods shorter than 1 minute per steep. At this, the infusion temperature is always 90°-100°C, which corresponds to boiling hot. As with all ripened teas, a short “washing steep” of 5-10 seconds with boling hot water is recommendable.
The “western approach” to preparing a dark tea resembles that of “black” (in China: red) tea. At this, the infusion temperature is also boiling hot. However, this approach goes with a more modest dosaging (3-5g/100ml) and longer infusion periods (2-5 minutes). The western approach can also involve the preparation of several steeps (2-3). However, their number is rather small in comparison to the Gong Fu approach. Also here, a short “washing steep” is recommendable-
Also from China comes the practice of boiling the tea leaves for up to ten minutes. With this, 4-5g Teeblätter per 1 liter water suffices to help the the single resulting steep to full flavor.
25g, 50g, 100g, 200g, 500g brick