Don’t write off the sample pack! This beautiful little golden pouch contains one of the most smooth examples of a black tea I’ve ever tasted. Mellow, round, and with some sweetness to the taste that reminds me of Qi Men hong cha or Bailin Gongfu.
This tea is a little bit of a mystery. Supposedly it is a Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong from the Wuyi Shan area, but I can’t be sure. The label reads (I think): 野生红茶, which is “Wild Red Tea”, but that could just be a generic description. Often the labels on sample packets are mass-produced for a tea manufacturer and aren’t indicative of what lies inside. Remember that “Red” tea in China is what we call “Black” tea in the West. The “Wild” part doesn’t say much. It could refer to tea harvested from old-growth tea trees or tea grown from seed rather than cuttings, but the taste is so clean that I wonder about that. Usually such teas have a roughness to their character. Also, in my experience it’s rare to find wild leaves used for hong cha (black tea). Oolong, puer, and white tea use wild leaves much more often, and this certainly isn’t Mao Cha.
If I had to guess and I was sure that the tea originated from the Wuyi area, I’d say that this is some hong cha unique to that region (Fujian / Guandong) that doesn’t have a very prestigious name outside its own province. Such gems exist all over tea growing countries. Whatever tea it is, though, I’m very happy to have had a chance to taste it!
I didn’t end up with a great many infusions (only 3) from the dark black twisted leaves, but they were a perfect gift on a long day spent under the looming specter of jet lag. I will thank the gods of tea for proving once again the mystery of this beautiful plant.
Update: It is indeed Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, from the wonderful Stone Leaf Teahouse.