After a brief hiatus from writing about tea so that I could spend the coming of the new year with friends and family, I’m glad to write my first blog post of the year! The tea that I enjoyed for today’s post was given to me by a friend. It is a type of red tea (known in the West as black tea) from the Wu Yi mountains in Fujian province. This tea is called Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong (正山小种), which means ‘small variety from the mountain’.
Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is also known in the West as Lapsang Souchong. Lapsang Souchong is usually a heavily smoked black tea, with a strong peaty and smoky flavor profile. I’m not sure if only Westerners enjoy this smoked flavor profile, or if there are Chinese drinkers who crave it as well. Either way, the version of Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong that I sampled for today’s post is un-smoked. For this reason the flavor profile is quite different from what those who have tried Lapsang Souchong may expect.
The aroma of the dry leaves instantly reminded me of dark chocolate. Without the smoking of the tea, this aroma was mild but pleasant, and less commanding than the sometimes abrasive aroma of smoked Lapsang Souchong.
The flavor of the brewed tea was different from the chocolaty aroma. It reminded me of a sweet wheat bread, with savory notes of wheat and yeast. There was a different sweet component in the flavor and aroma that reminded me of wild honey. Although these rich sweet and savory flavors might seem overpowering, there was a somewhat acidic quality similar to orange or lemon that lingered on the sides of the tongue after drinking the tea. For this reason the brew was not overpowering but was crisp, balanced, and refreshing.
The 2017 Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong was enjoyable. It was not complex, but was easy to drink and understand. I think the price / value ratio was high for this tea – $2.75 USD / 25 grams is very reasonable for what was offered. The comforting qualities were great for the cold weather.