A top-quality Yunnan-grown black tea with a rich and mellow taste. It is harvested in spring and pressed into neat rectangular nuggets for convenient storage and transportation. One of the most distinctive features of this tea is that it can be brewed 10 and even more times. Each nugget contains about eight grams of tea, and if steeped properly it can yield at least two liters of amazing beverage. Hongcha zhuan has a naturally invoked chocolaty aroma and a taste that changes from mellow to smoky and back to mellow again throughout an incredibly lengthy and emotionally rewarding steeping experience.
Why we like it?
We brewed our very first nugget of this tea a couple of years ago, and it was so good that we bought a fair amount of that tea for gifts and personal use. Once we decided to make it part of our collection, we required the tea growers to make us a batch as close as possible to the one that we loved so much. It was easier said than done. To cut the long story short, it was the fourth batch that met and, in some ways, even exceeded our expectations, and that is the one that we ended up pressing and selling here.
Hongcha zhuan undergoes considerable oxidation. Hence the relatively dark color of the liquor that it produces. In fact, it’s as dark as typical black tea. The tea is made in limited quantities and the process of making it is a mixture of secret art, skill, and luck, so this beauty may vary slightly from one year to another.
Miha likes to put a nugget of hongcha zhuan into a tumbler and then simply add hot water in it for hours on end, which is a great way for solitary drinking experience at both home and office. Roman, on the other hand, enjoys brewing it in his cast iron pot. This method is a bit less hassle-free, but it definitely allows to uncover more of the the tea’s potential and makes sharing tea easy. That being said, please note that what tools you use to brew the tea isn’t nearly as important as keeping the water temperature at around 80 degrees C. Otherwise, that mellow and chocolaty taste that this trip is famous for may simply ‘burn out’.
Please note that this tea is hand made in small quantities. Aroma and taste can differ quite significantly from batch to batch. Sometimes our hongcha zhuan is more on the fruity side, while other batches may go through a bit more roasting and thus develop smoky overtones that may come out after lengthy steepings.
The Chinese language has a special term to describe teas that perform so well even after multiple brews – nàipāo (耐泡). ‘Nai’ means ‘patient’ or ‘resistant’, and ‘pao’ means ‘brewing’.
Roman’s personal score: 90/100
Miha’s personal score: 91/100
The scores above represent how the Daoli co-founders Miha and Roman feel about each particular tea. The ratings are given on 0 to 100 scale and are absolutely subjective. We simply translate into numbers our first impression about this tea.
General steeping suggestions
Tea can be steeped in a tea pot, gaiwan, or a strainer placed right in your cup. Feel free to experiment with time, temperature, and quantity. If tea feels a bit strong or bitter, just use less leaves or steep it for a shorter period of time.
The purpose of the first brew is to rinse the leaves, so it shouldn’t last more than five seconds and should be discarded. Pour the hot water again. This time, steep it for longer periods. Avoid leaving the leaves soaking in water between brews, because it makes tea taste bitter and steals a lot of its flavor. If used properly, about six grams of tea leaves can yield several middle-size cups of excellent tea.
Chinese people enjoy the original taste of tea, so they never use milk, sugar, or lemon.
Steeping suggestions for Hongcha Zhuan
Start with this, then experiment:
- one serving: 1 nugget
- water: ~ 80 °C, 100-250 ml (~ 175°F, 3-9oz)
- time: 120-180+ seconds
- number of infusions: 8-12
- discard the first brew
These dianhong nuggets are pressed very tightly, so it might take them as long as several minutes to open, but once they do open up, you can keep the infusion time at 1-2 minutes and start extending it gradually after 5-6 brews. Shorter infusions will yield a bright golden beverage with dominant mellow flavor. Experiment and see what level of strength suits you best.
Have you tried this tea? Do you have any comments? Please use the space below to share your thoughts and ask us questions.