Anhua Heicha (Fuzhuan)
Heicha literally means "black tea". What people in Europe and America call black tea is actually red tea. Real black tea is post-fermentation tea. These include Anhua Heicha, Guangxi Liubao Cha and Shu Pu Erh.
Anhua is a county in Yiyang City, Hunan Province, China. The mountainous landscape, rich in moraine rocks and humid air, covers 82% of Anhua County. The region has a millennial history in traditional planting and producing of Heicha. The name Anhua is inseparable from Heicha in China and around the world.
How is Anhua Heicha Fuzhuan produced?
After being picked, tea leaves are roasted in the pan, rolled and stacked in a small pile while still warm and moist. They stay there for 12 to 24 hours to ferment. The process of fermenting is called "Vodui". The process is the same as for pu erh teas, it takes for pu erh tea "Wodui" at least 2 months!
After "Wodui", the leaves are rolled for the second time and roasted dry. Then the leaves are steamed again to become supple again, to be pressed into shapes. Various forms of Heicha are stored for years to ferment slowly and naturally and to cultivate Jinhua (golden flowers), a type of probiotic mushroom called Eurotium cristatum, EC.
There are many different forms of Anhua Heicha, some in solid pillars and others in bricks. Fuzhuan is called loosely pressed bricks, with a porous and airy structure for the growth of probiotic fungi. For this reason, there are more jinhua (golden flowers) in Fuzhuan than in other forms of Anhua Heicha, as most of the other forms are pressed more firmly. The quantity and quality of these jinhua (golden flowers) indicate the quality of fuzhuan.
The criteria of a good Anhua Heicha?
- The cup appears dark red, but transparent and clear.
- Tea with a very subtle bitterness that turns into a sweet, subtle and pleasant aftertaste.
- Silky mouthfeel
- Provides at least 10 infusions if you use 8 g for 100 ml of water and cooked in the Gongfucha style
- Slightly medicinal and mineral taste, but without a green, raw, smoky taste
- No taste of mold or taste suggestive of unclean storage.
- The used leaves in the gaiwan or in the teapot appear complete and shiny, feel thick and elastic between the fingers; but not flaky, lazy or crashed muddy.
- There should not only be leaves, but also some stems (approx. 15%).
- Lastly, and most importantly, you feel good after drinking the tea.
How do you prepare Anhua Heicha?
Gaiwan or thick-walled Yixing Zini or Duanni for preparing Anhua Heicha in Gongfucha style:
- Warm a gaiwan / teapot with boiling water (pour the hot water away after 5 seconds)
- cut off a piece of 6 to 8 g for a gaiwan / teapot of approx. 100 ml
- Rinse the leaves with boiling water (leave the water on for 5 seconds and then pour the water away)
- Refill the gaiwan / teapot and let the tea steep for 10 seconds. The first infusion is ready to be enjoyed
- 2nd-5th Infusions last 5 seconds
- From the 6th infusion, each time takes 5-10 seconds longer
Anhua Heicha in a large ceramic teapot
- 6-8 g for a teapot of 400 to 500 ml
- Let the tea brew with boiling water for 5 minutes
- After 1 pot, the tea can be left to stand for a long time (10-20 minutes) and the tea should not turn bitter.
How different is Anhua Heicha from Pu Erh Cha?
A lot of people compare Anhua Heicha to Shu Pu Erh, including me when I tried Anhua Heicha for the first time two years ago. The similarity in taste and mouthfeel to Pu Erh Shu Cha is understandable, as the invention of Pu Erh Shu Cha was inspired by the making of Anhua Heicha decades ago, which has a thousand year history behind it.
the Processing steps from Anhua Heicha are: plucking, roasting, pre-rolling, Wo Dui (the Wo Dui "wet layering" of the dark tea only takes about 12 to 24 hours), subsequent rolling, dry baking, compression, Fa Hua (growth of yellow mushrooms, Jinhua).
Of the Wodui process, where warm and moist tea leaves are piled up in a small mountain to accelerate aging (fermentation), inspired the birth of Shu Pu Erh. But instead of just one day or one night of vodui, Shu Pu Erh remains in the vodui process for at least two months. The result is a rounder taste and a heavier consistency of the tea liquid. When trying Anhua Heicha, especially Anhua Fuzhuan for the first time, it may refer to Shu Pu Erh. But you will quickly discover that Anhua Heicha is so silky and velvety, but with more highlights such as woodiness, subtle bitterness, fruitiness, minerality and medicinal notes; Its liquid is much more transparent and clear than a Shu Pu Erh. Some Anhua Heicha, especially the firmly pressed Huajuan Cha, may come closer and taste closer to an aged Pu Erh Sheng Cha than a lightly fermented Pu Erh Shu Cha.
However, Pu Erh tea, both Sheng and Shu, has a stronger taste and a stronger Cha Qi. The longer you drink Anhua Heicha, the less likely it is to be associated with Pu Erh, since Pu Erh and Anhua Heicha are made from different types of tea, apart from the differences in the manufacturing process, Pu Erh from Yunnan Da Ye Zhong (large leaves of Yunnan), Anhua Heicha from Yuntai Da Ye Zhong (large Yuntai leaves) or Qun Ti Zhong Xiao Ye Zhong (local small leaves). Needless to say, the different terroirs play a big role in the inequality of these two types of tea.