Two young girls near Nongyang town in Menghai County whose family's bulk income is derived from the sale of their teas. As much of the work and accounting is done by women, these two are potentially JalamTeas' suppliers. Already their family provides some of our teas.
In a move to broaden our selection, Jeff has decided to offer our first ‘non-Puerh’ tea for the winter season. It was a decision to branch out a little and offer up another Yunnan specialty. This time instead of the big leaf varietal that JalamTeas has come to be known for, we’re offering up a terrific ‘Red’ tea. In China, more often than not, what we’ve come to know as ‘black teas’ are referred to as red teas.
By ‘red’ we mean ‘fully fermented’. In the lexicon of tea’s ‘colours’ red teas are most often found in Asia’s tea vocabulary. While in the west ‘red tea’ frequently refers to rooibos, we are using the Chinese designation for ‘hong cha’ (literally ‘red tea).
Jeff doing his thing in the midst of a fresh load of drying leaves near Menghai, Yunnan.
‘Dien Hong’ is a perfect winter tea in that it follows more of a traditional fermentation without the earthy and often slightly pungent qualities of the Puerhs. A tea that is often consumed by locals in the colder months, the Dien Hong offers up a flavour that adds a smooth and slightly sweet tang to the palate.
With more of a tannin hit in the mouth, this red will feel much like teas that made it across the water from Asia, and the Indian subcontinent for serving with the addition of milk and sugar. We gently urge you to try at least one serving without any additions so that your palate can at least experience a brief hint of what this tea is about.
It is from this region close to Menghai where leaves for the Dien Hong were harvested. These young tea bushes will one day be plucked to create Dien Hong Red.
Flavours range but generally, Dien Hong (sometimes referred to as Yunnan Gold in the west) is slightly sweet and thick in the mouth. Many claim a bit of fruit flavour, but this is an entirely natural enzymatic occurrence, as there are no additions at all to this tea. It is the lack of astringency or bitterness that will be noticed and Jeff thinks it great for winter’s coming.
Tea leaf sorting in southern Yunnan province near one of the hearts of tea production in Menghai. Though many in name and in flavour, tea leaves go through some essential stages regardless of their 'colour'. Picking, withering, frying, and drying are all vital.
Our red Dien Hong tea has commonly been recommended and promoted on the basis of what Traditional Chinese Medicine has claimed: stimulating the central nervous system and reducing fatigue, as well as enhancing blood vessel elasticity. Traditional red teas from China contain less caffeine than dark teas from India while offering up a truly original ‘Chinese’ tea.
One of the communal aspects of any tea 'business'. After any tea negotiations are done a meal is put on by the hosts to celebrate. Meals are inevitable followed....by more tea.
This red offering of ours comes from altitudes of 1200-1500 metres near Menghai County in the very southwest of Yunnan province in the heart of the Hani indigenous group.
Our Yunnan red tea can handle fully boiled water as it isn’t simply the supple ‘tips’ that are used in the tea, which are traditionally much more delicate. Our red offers up a blend of both young tips and older more mature leaves, so the boiled water will not adversely affect our tea.
So, we hope that you enjoy our first ‘non-Puerh’ offering. Don’t fret about the ‘red tea’ – ‘black tea’ terminology. As one great tea master said, “Terms don’t really matter, as it is the mouth that should decide whether a tea is good or not”.
- Jeff Fuchs
While we encourage each drinker to tinker with infusion times and amounts of tea used according to taste, the below is a good base from which to begin the JalamTeas’ Dien Hong Red Tea tea experience. If this is your first tea cake, here is a step-by-step guide on how to break and prepare a tea cake.
Do not be afraid to make a stronger brew than you might be accustomed to. Use fully boiled water.
We recommend not less than 6 grams per serving. Ideally 8 grams. Locals in southern Yunnan will use as much as 12 grams and wring out more than a dozen infusions, keeping the infusion times relatively short.
When the tongue ceases to enjoy an infusion's strength, that is the time to begin anew with a fresh load of leaves.
Don't be shy to ask me any questions about your tea leaves or anything related at [email protected]. You have my ears and I will get back in touch with you.