Notes of plum, dried jujube, and applewood.
Red tea from Fujian, China・April 2011・野生小種・Organic
We purchased Cypress Smoked Wild Leaf knowing that smoke is a departure from our usual tea profile. But the texture, effervescence, sweetness and fruit notes of this tea fit perfectly into this year’s tea collection.
A tea’s character is a function of plant variety, growing location and conditions, and most importantly, craftsmanship. In these respects, Cypress Smoked Wild Leaf stands apart from the average smoked tea, beginning with plant variety.
Tea makers from Fujian often refer to unnamed small-leaf tea varieties as “cai cha”. The term is broad, and can refer to both cultivated and wild plants that are unclassified. The leaves for this tea were foraged from wild cai cha plants dispersed around a 1100m organic tea growing area near Wuyishan, Fujian. We use “foraged” instead of picked because the plants do not come from a single grove of trees, instead the few plants are scattered, and each year’s yield is quite low.
The growing region itself is isolated. Save for a fully organic tea garden owned by the tea producer, there are no other tea gardens or farms in the vicinity, so the region is clean of pesticides and cross contamination from neighboring farms.
But what makes this tea truly special is how it is crafted. Most heavily smoked teas such as lapsang souchong are dry smoked. This means the tea is finished, and heavily smoked to allow the dry leaves to absorb the scent. The only objective is to impart intense smoke to the tea, not to achieve balance between smoke, and sweetness, and texture.
Cypress Smoked Wild Leaf was not so much smoked as much as it was dried over cypress pine fire, and receives its smoked notes indirectly. This produces an apparent, but subtle smokiness, offset by sweetness, texture, and fruitiness. Further balancing this tea is its age: produced in 2011, its smoke character has waned, replaced by a dry fruit notes and a remarkable clarity of flavor, with notes of plum, dried jujube, and applewood smoke.
Brew: 4 grams・150 ml・208° F・1 min
This is an uncharacteristic smoked red, and while it could certainly hold up to a strong brew without yielding bitterness or astringency, we feel this tea is best brewed sweet. We suggest very high temperature but short steeps to bring out this tea’s effervescence.