Zhongcha Heicha – The Sharpest Bricks in Town
Christmas bells in the air and a trip to the good ol’ US of A. Some people abroad like to trash American food, but there are plenty of delicious highlights; particularly biscuits and gravy, which is not only delicious, but also the cheapest form of winter insulation known to man. After already indulging twice in three days, if I can keep pace, it is likely I will need a second seat on the return flight to China.
The other thing I love about home is cheese. I ate an aged blue (not bleu, this is ‘Merica. Freedom fries) goat cheese the other day which was both fantastic, and reminiscent of this tea which i had a couple of months ago. I don’t get the opportunity compare cheese and tea often, so I figured I would finally do a post about this Zhongcha production.
The tea is a Anhua Heicha, which is black tea, but not in the sense most people in the West are used to. It is a fermented brick tea from Hunnan, in this case, intentionally filled with jinhua [golden mold – i don’t know the scientific name]. Tea, twigs, and whatever unfortunate small animals get tossed into the thresher are all present in the brick – well, maybe not the last one, but I’d bet it has happened. The brick is exposed to this mold and kept in an environment which encourages further mold growth. This is where the comparison to blue cheese comes in.
This particular brick is from 2008. It is meant to be aged like puer, although letting this brick into your puer closet is like admitting an angry drunk into an elementary school. I’d be worried about having the mold and aggressive scent near my own storage.
Now, onto the cheesy sharpness. This black tea was easily the sharpest tea I have ever encountered, surpassing the previous record holder (a 2004 wet stored raw puer) by a country mile. Sometimes wet stored puer teas carry some sharpness after being released from the tomb, but this tea was sharp in a way that dwarfed even an aged blue goat cheese.
These teas allegedly get smoother with age, but given its current sharpness, I don’t think I have enough years left in my life in order to test that claim. The tea was nearly undrinkable. I brewed it upwards of 6 or 7 times before giving up and tossing the twiggy mix into the trash can. For those of you who have not had other heicha, this is definitely NOT a good example, nor is it representative of what is possible. There are good heicha bricks out there, but the intentionally molded variety can be pretty ugly. The mold is also supposed to have some medicinal properties – but, I am can barely get the soup down. I think I will stick with biscuits and gravy + puer for the near future.