Now we’re talking. I first ran across a version of these and tasted it without reviewing what it was two years ago. Yunnan black teas / dian hong (or shai hong, which I explain later) can vary quite a bit but the range is nice.
That version reminded me a little of those Hunan brick teas for character beyond being compressed: For being so mild and including pleasant dried fruit, rich sweetness, and other earthy complexity. I’ve tried a couple of other compressed Yunnan black teas since and they just vary. This other version was pleasant and included a bit of tartness, which can be nice in the right balance. The two main US pu’er vendors–Yunnan Sourcing and White2Tea–are now producing multiple versions, with one the former’s Drunk on Red and one of the latter’s boasting the catchy name of Natural Redhead. The marketing factor seems to show up in the product names.
This video interview with a Yunnan black tea specialist (conducted by William Osmont of Farmerleaf, a Jing Mai based producer and vendor) sheds light on the processing differences in various types of black teas; it just doesn’t get into the pressing of those. One takeaway from that matching established understanding is that Dian Hong–the conventional Yunnan style black teas–are oven-dried, while Shai Hong is sun-dried: Milder in fragrance and said to possess the potential to improve with age. I’ve tried the same versions across a broad span of time (a year or more), and they did seem to gain depth and intensity.
I had heard of these long before ever trying one, and did get a chance to in the form of a Moychay (Russian vendor) Da Hong Pao roasted oolong bar. You could tell it wasn’t the refined and subtle style of Wuyi Yancha that leans towards an aromatic liqueur or perfume-like aspect range: More flavor-forward and roasted to include sweet, rich, caramel flavors instead; positive in character but limited due to being comprised of relatively broken material. It worked well for me.
I have no idea if the unusual character in that product is somehow common to other compressed oolongs or if others are as flavor-intense and distinctive as that version. Some are probably great and others terrible, and all probably vary in taste and other aspect range: That’s how that usually goes. This looks like an interesting version of one (that I haven’t tried): a 2006 pressed Da Hong Pao brick from Wuyi Origin, a well regarded producer who sells directly.
Chen Pi – Tangerine or Orange Peel Stuffed With Shu Pu’er or Black Teas
I don’t want to add too much about these versions because they really deserve more background discussion and description than I have space for here. I’ve tried shupu’er and black tea versions (and have a white tea stuffed citrus peel at home yet to try), and they were nice, unique, and pleasant; and supposedly very good for health, bordering on a form of Chinese medical practice input. I’ll leave off at citing a reference to the claimed health effects, framed in traditional Chinese medicine terms (the tea could have positive effects without that description framework being the most accurate model, or some of the benefits could be valid and accurate even if some others aren’t):
Actions: Regulates Qi; adjusts the middle Jiao (acrid lifts the spleen Qi, bitter descends the stomach Qi); dries dampness; resolves phlegm; helps the spleen to transport; relieves the diaphragm; directs Qi downward.
John started writing the Tea in the Ancient World blog in 2013. Currently working in IT (data center quality assurance management), living in Bangkok, Thailand for 12 years, previously in PA, TX, MD, CO, and HI. Travel interest has related to visiting most East and Southeast Asian countries. Founder of the Specialty Tea Quora Space, and co-founder of the International Tea Talk Facebook group. Current tea preference centers on sheng pu’er but includes lots of other range. ...See John Bickel's Full Bio and List of Articles