Here’s another foray into tea terminology. This time it’s a look at what the Chinese refer to as “dark tea.” These are not to be confused with what we in the Western world call “black tea” (and the Chinese call “red tea”).
Simply put, dark tea (Hei Cha 黑茶) is a unique tea type made by post fermentation. It’s been around for more than 400 years. The Chinese often call it Border-Sale Tea (Bian Xiao Cha 边销茶), meaning literally “tea sold on borders.” The leaves are usually compressed into bricks and sold in western minority areas of China.
The “dark tea” name is based on the color of the dried leaves, which are generally old and coarse raw leaves that have been stacked a long time for fermentation. The more specific types are designated by their producing areas and productions processes. For example, there is Hunan Hei Cha (from Hunan Province where tea has been produced for over 2,000 years), Hubei Hei Cha (from Hubei Province which has a subtropical climate and distinct seasons), Sichuan Route Tea, and Dian-Gui Hei Cha.
The taste of dark tea can be fairly strong, especially for those whose palates are used to lighter flavors such as delicate green and white teas. You can easily get accustomed to it, though, if you drink it on a regular basis. And many consider it mellow and unique. Enjoyed in the provinces of Guangxi, Yunnan, and Sichuan, the tea has now gained popularity among Tibetans, Mongols, and Uygurs, so much so that they consider it an essential. The Yunnan and Sichuan hei chas are also known as “pu-er” (plus variant spellings). The Sichuan versions are mainly produced in Yibing and areas close by.
Some other varieties of dark tea (hei cha) are:
Varieties of Dark Tea (Hei Cha):
- Laoqing Tea which is mainly produced in Chibi, Xianling, Tongshan, and Chongyang in Hubei province
- Raw Dark Green Tea
- Several from Guangxi Province: Liupu Tea originally produced in Liupu village, but now produced in more than 20 counties; Bainiu Tea produced in Jinxiu; Liudong Tea, produced in Xing’an; Xiuren Tea, produced in Lipu; and Wantian Tea, produced in Lingui
This type of tea has a reputation for having lots of healthful properties. It is said to contain many vitamins, minerals, protein, amino acids, and sugar substances. It also has caffeine and phospholipids, and is considered a great digestive aid, regulating fat metabolism. This also leads many to consider dark tea good for weight loss and longevity. Other health benefit claims are: significant inhibiting effect on tumor cells, a role of lowering blood pressure, lowers blood sugar, acts as bactericide and anti-inflammatory, and detoxifies. [Note: We present this as information but not as medical advice. Consult your doctor before starting a tea regimen.]
Try some and see what you think.