Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Tag: heicha (Page 1 of 2)

Rethinking Tea Categories

Editor’s Note: This is merely a thought exercise by the author. The opinions reflected in the below narrative do not reflect the opinions of the teaware on staff . . . or this editor, for that matter.

Seriously, I just work here, guys.

A thought occurred to me over the years. No one has come to a clear consensus as to what the proper tea categories are. The general consensus is that there are six: Heicha (Dark Tea), Hong Cha (Black/Red Tea), Wulong, Green Tea, Yellow Tea, and White Tea. However, some say that yellow tea isn’t its own category (even though it clearly is). Others champion the stance that dark tea shouldn’t include sheng (raw) puerh. Others still believe puerh should be its own category. Hell, even some international trade laws only recognize two tea categories.

So, this got me thinking . . .

If I were the end-all/say-all authority on tea lexicography, how would I divvy up the different tea types? What would my breakdown look like? Well, in order to answer that question, I must breakdown (and in some cases, outright destroy) existing trends. This might over-complicate the issue, and over-simplify other things. But this is my write-up . . . and I’ll do what I want. So, here we go:

*dons helmet*

Read More

Heicha Happy Hour

For most of this spring, I’ve been on a bit of a heicha kick.

Not puerh . . . heicha. As in, dark (or fermented) teas not from Yunnan province, China.

I’m not sure when it all started, but I have a feeling this dude had something to do with it.

Read More

Putting “Tea: A User’s Guide” to Good Use

In May of 2013, I finally met this tea-bro in person.

Tony Gebely—award-winning tea blogger, tea business insider, and all-around nice guy. When we first met, we did what any self-respecting tea people would do on first impression. We drank beer.

While we were downing pints, he mentioned he was working on a book, and ran the title by me. He wanted to call it: Tea: A User’s Guide. I told him I dug it, and that he should keep me posted on its release.

Read More

Dark Tea from Burma/Myanmar

No one likes to talking about Burma . . . or Myanmar . . . or whatever it’s calling itself, now.

Photo by David Blackwell.

Photo by David Blackwell.

Even the name of the country is a hotly contested issue. At college parties, whenever some Eastern Philosophy major brought up Buddhism as an example of a nonviolent religion, all someone had to do was say, “Myanmar.” Or Burma. Or whatever!

Read More

Dark Tea from Taiwan

In late 2013, I thought I tried the rarest, weirdest, most unheard-of tea unicorn out there—a heicha (dark tea) from Taiwan.

dark tea

After three years of palatial growth, though, I’m now convinced that it was a Yunnan grown puerh that was merely stored in Taiwan. Still unique, but not quite the unicorn I thought it was. However, I learned of a group who might have created one.

Read More

Dark Tea from Thailand

Well over a year ago, Tony “World of Tea” Gebely posted a photo of a dark tea on Instagram.

It was an aged moacha (i.e. the rough stuff used to make puerh cakes) . . . but it was from – of all places – Thailand.

Used with permission by Tony Gebely.

Used with permission by Tony Gebely.

For obvious reasons, it grabbed my attention.

Read More

Russian Dark Tea

Russians love tea. Like . . . really love tea. Even the British and Irish look at the Russian love affair with tea and say, “Would you kindly tone it down?”

I learned of this secondhand when I was doing research a couple of years ago on tea grown in Russia. Not exactly sure how it happened, but Russians took a rather strong liking to low-altitude Ceylon. Brewed as a concentrate . . . from a giant brass water heater . . . that was stoked with a boot. Yes, a Samovar.

But in recent years, there’s been a shift in the Russian tea palate. One I learned of from – of all places – Instagram.

Photo used with permission from Electrogorilla

Photo used with permission from Electrogorilla

Young Russians love dark tea (or “heicha”). Like . . . really love dark tea. Puerh, to be precise.

Read More

A Different Dark Tea on Black Friday

NaNoTeaMo, Day 27: “A Different Dark Tea on Black Friday”

As I’m writing this, it’s the night of Black Friday. To most tea people with a pun gland, though, it’s Black Tea Friday. So, in honor of that, will I be talking about another unique black tea?

NOPE

Forget it, I’m going to talk about dark tea, instead. That’s right, heicha! And not from China, either. This time? We’re going to look at a little known tea growing country called Laos.

Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of Laos. Ever watch The King and I? That’s Laos!

The King and I

Well, Siam to the time period it was portraying and . . . y’know what? Bad example.

Read More

Dark Tea Déjà Vu

NaNoTeaMo, Day 5: “Dark Tea Déjà Vu”

It all started with a tweet . . . when I was drunk.

teabeer drunk

Not tea drunk, actual drunk.

Read More

The Dark Side of Bancha

Bancha (literally translated as “ordinary tea”) is the redheaded stepchild of the Japanese green tea family. Whereas the topmost tea leaves are reserved for higher grade sencha, gyokuro and matcha, the older, courser leaves are reserved for lesser brews. They typically lack the flavorful kick of the top-tier leaves or the caffeine level.

Left with no other option, the Japanese do what comes naturally with these late-harvest, leafy underachievers. They f**k around with them. Sometimes, the results are magical – as demonstrated with houjicha, a charcoal-roasted tea. Other times…*sigh*…abominations like genmaicha – tea leaves blended with rice – occur.

Okay, that’s not entirely fair. Genmaicha has plenty of fans out there, and that’s all well and good. We’re allowed to like terrible things. I’ve been known to chuckle at an Adam Sandler movie or two, for instance.

sandler

But I digress.

One of my favorite f**ckarounds the Japanese devised seems like it was lifted from the Chinese/Taiwanese handbook. It was as if there was a meeting that went something like this:

Guy 1: “So…what should we do with all these autumn harvest bancha leaves?”

Guy 2: “I dunno…let’s age ‘em.”

Guy 1: “No, too long of a wait…and the Taiwanese already do that.”

Guy 2: “Uh…we could ferment it?”

Guy 1: “Don’t the Chinese already do that?”

Guy 2: “Yeah, so?”

Guy 1: “Fair point.”

Which brings me to Goishicha.

goishicha stacks

Source: Tosa Wave Blog

Goishicha originates from a town called Otoyo in the mountains of Kochi Prefecture. It is so named because of the tea’s compressed appearance – resembling playing pieces for the game, Go. The process involved in making it is rather labor intensive. Bancha leaves are steamed, stacked on the ground, flattened by a mat, left to ferment, then stacked into a barrel, and left to ferment a second time.

For awhile, this was considered the only post-fermented tea coming out of Japan. A tea so rare that at one time there was only one known producer of the stuff. That has changed in recent years due to a rise in Japanese tea experimentation. With the proliferation of other Japanese heicha (“dark tea”) surfacing, it was only a matter of time before the Goishicha practice resurfaced.

I first ran into mentions of Goishicha while researching another fermented bancha for an article – Awabancha. That eventually led me to getting in contact with Yunomi.us about acquiring some for a write-up. Around the same time, I also sampled two other Japanese dark teas through Yunomi – Batabatacha and Mimasaka Bancha, respectively. I covered both on my oft-overlooked Tumblr page. After those taste-tests, I could safely say I had a palate for “dark bancha”. All that remained to be seen was if I took a liking to the granddaddy of them all.

goishicha piece

This was one of the most unique dark teas or banchas I’d ever come across. In appearance, the leaves were compressed like a Chinese heicha, but more complete. It was like the makers just took the unbroken leave, without bothering to roll or cut them, and just pressed ‘em – waiting for fermentation. The aroma they gave off was also rather bizarre. I’ve encountered teas with kelp-like characteristics, but this was straight saltine seaweed snacks on smell. It took a whole lot of composure to not bite into the sliver.

Yunomi.us recommended three different forms of brewing, but the basic gist was the same for each method. Boil water, put a piece in per cup size, wait for four-to-five minutes. I went with the scaled down version for a steeper cup’s worth of testing.

goishicha brewed

The liquor brewed bronze with an aroma that reminded me of a rice-cultured Japanese pu-erh variant from yesterbrews. On taste, just…whoah. Sooooo much going on. The flavor started with a soy-sauce-tart and salty introduction, then shifted to something akin to prunes or raisins, and finished with a lingering, earthy mouthfeel. Basically, like a pu-erh that the Japanese would concoct. It may sound rather primal, but a part of me compared it to a rum barrel-aged beer I had long ago.

If this is what bancha could become after embracing its dark side, then consider me a steeping Sith Lord.

ITS TOO HOT!!!

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar