Black Tea

The gift of Feng Qing

What a busy week (and a half) it has been. I celebrated my 10 year anniversary with my husband, I got to meet Chris Barrie, Danny John Jules and Robert Llewellyn from Red Dwarf (thanks to Brit Sci Fi 2013 convention) and my cousin once removed was welcomed into the world. It’s been wonderful but very busy and I am thankful to be getting back to normal.

The packaging with instructions.
The packaging with instructions.

On Friday I received my Canton Tea Club parcel and I have been looking forward to this weeks venture for the past month when it was revealed. This week is mini Feng Qing tea bricks and they look amazing. Wrapped in gold foil that resembles fancy chocolate with wonderful golden tips amongst it’s rich earthy brown colour. I love all teas from Yunnan (and have not been proven wrong yet).

The bricks in gold foil that resemble chocolate.
The bricks in gold foil that resemble chocolate.
Tea brick - note the golden tips.
Tea brick – note the golden tips.

This is what Canton had to say about their tea –

Origin: Lao Cang Tea Factory, Feng Qing Township of Lincang Prefecture (Yunnan), China.

Harvest Date: Autumn 2012

Feng Qing lies on the ancient trade route known as ‘The Horse Road’, established during the Song Dynasty, via which trade was conducted between Tibet and China. These mini bricks hark back to the days when black tea was compressed into bricks to make it easier to transport on the 2,300km journey.

As opposed to other Chinese black teas, teas from Yunnan have a high proportion of golden tips, so the liquor lacks the bitterness of other black tea and is smooth an sweet on the palate. – Taken from Canton Clubs information card.

The hardest decision for me to make is whether I brew this Gaiwan style of Gongfu teapot style. I think my blog is due a Gaiwan review so Gaiwan style it is 🙂

I did prepare myself for this review and visited my local Chinese supermarket for authentic treats to go with this tea, turning it into a tea tasting session that will be remembered. My husband will be joining me and is still fairly new to tea so I thought it would be a nice treat for him to experience.

Feng Qing 3

So we have rice cake and Mo Chi to refresh our palate with between every few Gaiwan steeps or as desired.

Rice Cake
Rice Cake
Mo Chi
Mo Chi

The instructions state to use 95°C water and start with 1 minute infusions until the brick separates and continue with 45 seconds – 60 seconds steeps. It also recommends at least 10 servings per brick.

First Steep
First Steep

Steep One – 1 minute

Very little to describe as the brick is still compact but there is a gentle sweetness.

Steep Two – 1 minute

Light brown in colour with a subtle malt scent. A little flavour is present but again not much, it’s sweet, a little fruity and smooth.

Steep Three – 1 minute

My husband was first to note an almost citrus like tang which is still very subtle and my brick has yet to separate.

Steep Four – 1 minute

There is a sweet caramel tone that smooths over the citrus. Still the brick is whole.

Steep Five – 1 minute

It carries the caramel flavour well and remains very light and refreshing.

Steep 5 - half way.
Steep 5 – half way.

Steep Six – 1 minute

Brown in colour but still no real scent to speak of. The tea is still sweet and smooth with a little earthiness like dried Autumn leaves (which funnily enough is what this tea actually is). Still the brick is whole with only a few little bits that have been separated.

Steep Seven – 1 minute 

Slight darker in colour with notable sweet yet musky malt tones in fragrance. Still silky smooth caramel sweetness but the fruit has been reduced to the after taste.

Steep Eight – 1 minute 

Golden brown in colour with a stronger earthy malt scent. It slips down so easily like silk, delicious sweet caramel and fruit tones with dark chocolate highlights whilst remaining light.

Steep Nine – 1 minute

It’ starting to reduce in colour and flavour. It’s fruity once again with rich malt sweetness. Sort of like a citrus malt cake/loaf.

Steep Ten – 1 minute 

I have decided the citrus notes resemble orange the most. Very subtle once again to leave me with a sweet smooth finish.

The tea once steeped
The tea once steeped
The brick after steeps - notice that it is still solid in the middle.
The brick after steeps – notice that it is still solid in the middle.

Orange, caramel, malt – the most prominent flavours. In honesty this tea was nothing like what I was expecting, the tea throughout remained very subtle and mild in flavour. I was waiting for it to pick up in strength but it never did and while the tea was still quite nice it just isn’t what I associate with Yunnan black tea. The brick never fully broke apart and I believe that was one of the problems with the lack of flavour. I steeped the brick on par with the instructions so I am to believe that the only problem was my expectations.

Anyway it was nice and sweet which worked well with the Asian food and we enjoyed sharing our experience with you. These little tea bricks are super cute and while they are not what you would expect they deliver a unique sweet treat that works well as a palate cleanser. Would work well after a meal.

Overall I would rate this as 7/10 as it did not meet my expectations. Oh well, perhaps brewing it Gongfu style will make a difference, if it does I will update you on that.

EDIT: I told you that I would reply with information on this tea brewed using a Gongfu. Well I tried the bricks again with my Gaiwan and I had the same issue as this blog showed, it just was not separating at all even with boiling water.

I just got home from work and thought I would give the Gongfu a try and it works better than the Gaiwan. My first steep was for 2 minutes with boiling water and a third of the brick has separated giving me a mahogany coloured tea. There is a prominent sweet malt aroma that I love about Feng Qing and the caramel and cocoa is coming through much better.

I’m not sure if there was a problem with the bricks that I tried in my Gaiwan as they did look tighter and more compressed than the one I use in my Gongfu or if I am just not a fan of the Gaiwan steeps for this brick.

At least this story has a happy ending 🙂

3 thoughts on “The gift of Feng Qing

  1. That’s a lot of infusions per brick. I’d have brewed it longer and not more than 3 times. I know many people do more than 3 but it doesn’t really work for me. @happygaiwan have you tried teas such as this one? The little treats you had were a nice and delicious looking touch! What is Mo Chi?

    1. @jackie I agree that there were a lot of infusions and normally I wouldn’t do as many especially for a black tea, but for the first steep of a new tea I always follow brewing instructions. Usually Canton Tea Co have the same preferences as me but this is the first one I differ with, but saying that I do need to try the Gongfu instructions still.

      Mo Chi is a glutinous rice cake but with different flavours on both the outside and inside. The ones I had were peanut, red bean and sesame seed. My husband loved the peanut one, it had thick peanut butter in the middle and was dusted in peanut powder. They were unusual but pleasant and very filling.

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