A post from sanzui. original post
(From Professor Cai Zhengan, Professor Tang Heping editors of [the book] "Hunan tea")
What is black tea (heicha/黑茶)?
What, exactly, is the real meaning of of heicha? Academics have made an exact definition of Heicha within the tea classification system. Tea scientist, professor Chen Yuan believes that the ideal tea classification must have two elements: First, as regards to its attributes; and second as regards to processing. According to this theory, Chinese tea is divided into six categories according to the processing method used. These are: green, yellow, white, red, black, and oolong.
The notable characteristics of Heicha processing are damp piling and baking over an open pine timber fire. The attributes of black tea are black and brown color, oily and smooth; the flavour is mellow and not astringent, with a slight scent of pine smoke.
Black tea is a special type of tea. Firstly, it is possessed of a long history and an evolution of complex relations, secondly it is consumed in a special region, namely the outskirts and border areas of China. People often confuse Bianxiao tea (tea sold in the border regions) and heicha, as well as heicha and other post-fermented teas, and call them all heicha. This is unscientific. This is not conducive to people identifying heicha properly, resulting in a number of misunderstandings; It also is not conducive to the healthy development of the heicha industry. Therefore it is necessary to reconsider heicha from a more historical and realistic perspective.
The author believes that the definition of heicha should be guided by the following principles:
1. The principle of respect for history: As mentioned above,historically, "heicha" is all produced in Anhua (a town in Hunan which makes heicha.) Its special raw materials (from many types of medium and large leaf varietals grown in high mountain areas.), processing methods (the "damp heaping" and "open flame pine fuel drying" as part of the primary processing) unique attributes (dry leaf color brown and black, oily and smooth; taste mellow or slightly astringent, liquor color orange and bright, slightly scented with pine smoke.) all of these characteristics specifically refer to tea from Anhua.
2. The scientific principles of classification: as regards steaming green tea or oolong tea (wucha/ dark tea?) and then post-fermentation techniques, although similar in terms of chemical processes and the appearance and color of th teas, is still different from the “damp heaping” technique used to make heicha, it also lacks the characteristic of the pine fuel open fire baking technique. Many qualities of “wucha” and Anhua heicha have extremely large discrepancies. According to the principles of modern tea classification this can only be classified as "post-processing fermented green tea." The raw materials used to make Yunnan pu’er tea are sun dried green tea maocha, through natural fermentation during long-term storage or long-distance transportation (sheng pu’er) or after artificial fermentation (cooked pu’er) make up post-fermented tea. There are differences both in the microbes which cause fermentation and in the mechanism of fermentation. Pu’er teas also lack the pine fuel open flame unique baking process.
3. To prevent the confusion of concepts: Heicha is not synonymous with border tea. Border tea is simply tea sold in the border areas of China. In addition to Anhua heicha, there are post-processing fermented teas and other types of tea, such as green tea, and yellow tea. If border teas are confused with heicha, or treated as equivalents, the speaker is remiss and not in line with objective fact.
Accordingly, the definition of heicha is to be considered on the basis of raw materials, processing technology and characteristic qualities. The author believe the following should be the definition of heicha:
Heicha is any tea which uses a combination of middle and large leaf varietals grown in the Hunan Xuefeng Mountain for raw materials which undergo four important processing steps: kill-green, rolling, damp heaping, pine fuel open flame baking, The dry leaf which is produced is black and brown, oily and smooth. The taste is mellow and sometimes slightly astringent. The liquor color is reddish orange and bright, and has a slight pine smoke odor. This loose tea is then steamed and pressed into compressed tea.
The author believes that Guangxi Liubao tea processing technology and the quality and characteristics are very close to Hunan heicha, and could be considered for the heicha category. As for the category which Yunnan pu’er and Sichuan border teas fall into, this is a subject for further scientific exploration.
"Hunan tea" by the Hunan Agricultural University Professor Cai Zhengan of the tea Department, and Professor Tang Heping editor-in-chief of China's first monograph on heicha, the book describes a system in Hunan Province of tea history, processing, consumption and cultural value of the mysterious heicha~
some of the comments on this post
All right now ... The Anhua county government is about to publish a [different] book on heicha.
There should be a more detailed description of heicha, and the commercial bias of the author ought to be a little less noticeable...
Heicha. The most famous of which is of course Anhua heicha!
[shou] Pu'er uses part of the Anhua’s production process.
which is ‘damp heaping.’
I want to get this book and learn more too.
Pu'er tea has been listed as a separate category - "Pu’er tea", there is no need to argue this question.