Featured Collectoin of
Chinese Dark Tea

Brief Introduction to
Chinese Dark Tea

Chinese Dark Tea is a fermented tea (also known as post-fermented tea, literally as Hei Cha), it has undergone microbial fermentation, from several months to many years. The exposure of the tea leaves to humidity and oxygen during the process also causes endo-oxidation (derived from the tea-leaf enzymes themselves) and exo-oxidation (which is microbially catalysed). The tea leaves and the liquor made from them become darker with oxidation. Thus, the various kinds of fermented teas produced across China are also referred to as dark tea, not be confused with black tea. The most famous fermented tea is Pu-erh, produced in Yunnan Province, and the Anhua dark tea produced in Anhua County of Hunan Province. Anhua dark tea is typically divided into such three series as “San Jian (also called Xiang Jian, literally as Three Tips)”, “San Zhuan (literally as Three Bricks)” and “Hua Juan” (also called Qian Liang Cha).

The earliest record about “dark tea” appeared in Chinese history in 1524, in which the real dark tea originated in Anhua of Hunan Provoince. Hunan has been the main production area of Dark Tea since Ming Dynasty. The earlier history of dark tea is basically unclear, but there are several legends and some credible theories. For example, one legend holds that dark tea was first produced accidentally, on the Silk Road and Tea Road by tea caravans in the rainy season. When the tea was soaked in rain, the tea transporters abandoned it for fear of contamination. The next year, nearby villages suffered from dysentery, and decided to drink the abandoned mildewed tea in desperation. The legend concludes that the tea cured those suffering, and quickly became popular.

“Tea-horse Exchange” appeared in the ancient Chinese history and lasted for about one thousand years from Tang Dynasty to Qing Dynasty. The government exchanged the tea abounded in the central plains for the horses fed by the minorities in the Northwest, made two sides get what they need from each other. Dark tea was one of the main kinds of tea in “Tea-horse Exchange”. It  was also called “Official Tea”  (literally as Guan Cha) which means that this tea was controlled by the government in order to exchange horses with the minorities at that time.

During the Tang dynasty, the road from Yunan and Sichuan to Tibet was called “the ancient tea-horse Road” (Chama Gudao) in history. The merchants carried dark tea from Hunan to north along the ancient transportation lifeline.

Ming Dynasty government thought that Hunan dark tea with large yield, strong and stimulating taste was more suitable for the minorities to drink with cream cheese in it, so they made the tea produced in Anhua county of Hunan as “official Tea”. It was carried to the areas of Xianyang and Jingyang of Shanxi province and made into “Jingyang Brick Tea”. Since produced in summer it was named as “Fu brick tea”.

Dark tea was called Border-Sale Tea (literally as Bian Xiao Cha), tea sold on borders as it was commonly compressed into forms of bricks and sold in the western minority areas of China. It was even shipped as far as to Russia. Unlike other types of Chinese tea whose taste and aroma fade with age, dark tea actually improves with age, making it a favorite of collectors and investors in the modern days.

The production technology of dark tea has two notable characteristic features: Pile-Fermenting and Fire-Drying with pine wood during primary processing. Without these two processes, it can’t be called “Dark Tea”. Black glossy, dark brown, stale and mellow, a little pine odor is the characteristic of dark tea.

For people who like delicate green tea, it is hard to get used to the strong and unique taste of dark tea at once while if they stick to drinking it, they would fall in love with the unique mellow flavor of dark tea. During recent years, Dark Tea gained wider and wider popularity partly because its health benefits such as anti-oxidation, anti-aging, detoxification, diuretic to reduce tobacco and alcohol poisoning, lipid-lowering, weight loss, softening of human blood vessels, prevention of cardiovascular disease were realized by more and more people.

Dark Tea matures with time. If stored correctly, dark teas have no expiration date and will accompany you over time. Tasting their subtle change in flavor is one of the unique pleasures they have to offer.

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