Black Tea 2020
- Tea Origin
- Anji County, Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China
- Tea Bush
- Baiye #1 (White Leaf #1)
- Tea Master
- Yu Shunhu
- Harvest Time
- Early April
- Picking Standard
- One bud, two leaves
As a black tea, the unique character of the Bai Ye #1 tea bush cultivar develops into a rosy-amber brew with a sweet aromas reminiscent of malt, honey and molasses. Longer infusions deepen the flavor into the darker and fruitier register, but Anji Hong remains uncharacteristically delicate for a black tea. The result is more akin to the sweet complexity of black teas like Old Tree Yunnan (Laoshu Dianhong) or Qimen Caixia (Sunrise Keemun) but with a softer character that’s all its own.
Although Chinese black tea was historically produced as a commodity export, recent years have seen a domestic increase in popularity of high-end black teas made to the same kinds of exacting specifications as the finest Chinese greens. As a result, many producers have begun making black tea versions of their own green teas. Anji Hong is one outcome of this trend and first appeared on the tea market in the 2010’s. “Anji” refers to the tea’s provenance in Anji county in Zhejiang province and “hong”, meaning “red”, indicates the processing style. Note the Chinese hongcha (lit. “red tea”) is translated into English as “black tea.”
Anji Baicha green tea’s history extends at least as far back at the Song Dynasty with the famous emperor Song Hui Zhong. Known both for his artistry and as an ardent tea lover, he wrote a book about tea and devoted an entire chapter to the pale leaf of “Baicha”. Although he did not mention the source, Lu Yu, the famous tea sage during the Tang Dynasty, described the An Ji area as a treasure of tea, but did not mention a specific tea. It took 900 years for tea scholars and tea masters to put the two together when researchers discovered very old tea bushes growing in Anji county with a pale white blush in the early spring and an excellent flavor. This was a tea fitting to the Song emperor’s description of “Baicha”. It has taken since 1980 to propagate enough bushes to have a commercial crop. Since then, Anj Baicha has become the most sought after green tea today due to its limited production and singular character. All baicha (Bai Ye #1 cultivar) bushes today are descended from two mother bushes, only one of which is still living. The remaining mother bush is estimated to be over 300 years old and its place on the mountain side has now become something of a destination for devoted Chinese tea drinkers.
The Unique Character of Anji Hong’s Cultivar
Bai Ye #1 pale jade leaves are unique in their high amino acid content, which contributes to the sweetness and calming effect of their infusion. Some studies have estimated that Bai Ye #1 leaves contain approximately three to five times the amount of amino acid found in other varieties. The leaves are at the lightest in color and richest in amino acids the early spring, before temperatures climb above 25 degrees Celsius. Once the temperature warms beyond this point, the leaves of Bai Ye bushes are noticeably greener and have changed in flavor. Therefore, there is only a spring harvest of Bai Ye #1. Regardless of their processing, Bai Ye #1 leaves tend to make very delicate tea. We selected slightly more mature leaves from later in the season for Anji Hong. Leaves at this stage of growth have a more substantial body that lends itself well to black tea while still expressing the unique character of the cultivar.
No chemical fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide was used in the production of this tea. Click here to read more about our promise to fair trade and the environment.
Anji Hong brewing guidelines
Teaware: 12 oz. glass or porcelain pot
Amount: 4 grams (approximately 1 ½ Tbs) of tea leaves
Water: 208°F filtered water
Infusion: First infusion at least 2 minutes. The leaves are good for 4 infusions. Add a little more time for each subsequent infusion.