I have experienced this type of tea both on my own time and in my studies, but it’s not a favorite type for Ms. Tea. I have a feeling that I will spend more time with these great brews in the future as I find the process of creating dark teas fascinating. It is also the only type which has a fermentation process included in the creation of the tea. It’s also the only type of tea which can be collected and stored to become better over time just like a fine bottle of wine.
A large component of this category are Pu-erh teas and they come in all forms and shapes. Normally seen as little cakes or bird’s nests they have their own way of being brewed.
Some call it an ‘acquired’ taste, but several times I was able to prepare the most amazing tasting cup of tea. This tea benefits from multiple infusions similar to Oolongs and it is also advisable to use a Yixing clay tea pot to get the best results. Normally the first infusion or even infusions gets discarded to wash the tea and to wake up the leaves. I have also seen some exact opposite reports claiming that the first, unwashed infusion is the best and the purest. Some teas can give more than 30 infusions! I have read stories from tea houses that people gave up drinking but the tea leaves would still give flavor even after 30+ infusions!
Many people call this category pu-erh teas by itself, but one of my tea retailers describes the difference the best:
The Specialty Tea Institute defines Dark Teas as: “a category of teas produced historically in China that are allowed or encouraged to ferment (in the true sense of the word) after some measure of processing. The exact details of this process can vary from province to province, and are often kept as a trade secret. In China these fermented teas are collectively called heicha which means ‘dark tea’ or ‘black tea.’ This name describes the dark brown liquors infused from the fermented tea leaves. Confusingly, the teas that Western cultures call black tea are what China calls hongcha or ‘red tea.’ Dark Teas are produced in Yunnan, Hubei, Hunan, Anhui, and Guangxi provinces of China. Pu-erh is one type of Dark Tea, the most well-known Dark Tea in the west.”
There are two methods of processing this tea – the uncooked and the cooked method. The uncooked method allows the tea leaves to ferment naturally. This takes longer but the result will be outstanding. Some years ago the cooking method was added which speeds up the process but to me the taste is not the same.
And there you have it. My lightning speed journey around the 6 types of teas (in the Tea Reflections series). This is just the tip of the iceberg and there are so many more types and stories but I will cover them in separate blog posts.
The most important thing is that you find a tea that YOU like and a tea type which best suits your taste. To explore is half the fun of the tea journey and every day new teas are being produced and new varieties are being discovered.
You can browse the world of online tea retailers or you can visit your local tea shop where you will always find something new. And if you find something exiting, I would love to hear from you. If you have a tea you would like to know more about, please drop me a line and I can put a spotlight on it to be shared with all in one of the next posts.
Until then, happy tea discovery!