Monday, December 1, 2014

What-Cha, Vietnam (Ha Giang) 2007 Wild 'Dark Forest' Dark Tea

What-Cha Description:
A brilliant wild growing dark tea with a smooth and lingering wood taste.

It is prepared in a smilar fashion to a cooked (shou) puer with the exception that the leaves are left to ferment over many years rather than being fully dried. It is made from wild growing leaves (from trees aged 200-800 years old) from Ha Giang province which shares a 270km border with Yunnan.

Sample provided by What-Cha Tea Redefined

My Review:
Christmas came early at my house. Just before Thanksgiving, a big new box of samples arrived from What-Cha. There was a bit of an altercation between my mailbox, two boxes arriving the same day, and our substitute mail carrier. The contents of my What-Cha box are unharmed. I cannot say the same for the exterior. Speaks well of the bubble wrap packaging on What-Cha's part.

Like a giddy school girl (I don't know what that phrase means either) I tore into the box this morning. I had made up my mind not to sort these in any order. I would just grab the top one and work my way down. Yeah, that was the plan. I don't remember the first I grabbed because my eye saw the one just under it. Dark Tea! Awesome. I haven't had a dark tea in quite a while. So I guess the new rule is I pick the first bag under the top one - ha.

Dry Leaf
Pu-erh is a dark tea but not all dark tea is pu-erh. Dark tea is the bigger family name of post fermented tea. It is an acquired taste. This particular tea comes from trees that are 200-800 years old. For those with an open mind, let's see how this one brews up.

I always make a point of noting the simple layout of the What-Cha sample label. I always check the website for the company description and other information, but it is nice to know I don't have to journey beyond the packaging to know how to brew the tea.

Opening the bag I catch the scent of big old damp logs slowly decaying on the forest floor. There is also another scent that is not charcoal, and not ash either. It is kind of like a log the day after putting the fire out. Somehow that is an insufficient wording, as it is actually a good pleasing scent to my tastes. There is nothing 'off' in the aroma as can be the case with poorly produced leaf.

Alien Wet Leaf
The dry leaf is small pieces of dark cinnamon and browns. It looks similar to several loose pu-erh teas I have sampled. I used about 3 g in my press with 200 F filtered water and steeped for 2 1/2 minutes.

Digressing for a moment, as I am prone to do, in anticipation of today's tea, I dismantled my press this morning and gave it a much needed thorough cleansing. It sparkles like new from top to bottom.

The wet leaf fascinated me. I know it is hard to see in the picture, even if you click on it to enlarge. It is so dark, black really. It has a shiny look like a neoprene diving suit. It also has a sharp crystalline texture about its appearance. Of course it is soft and squishy if you play with it (yes, I do that sometimes). The dark shininess of the leaf reminded me of the monster in Alien.

A Cup Of Dark Tea
The tea brewed up to a lighter than expected orange tint. It looks very much like, well, tea. It has a slightly musty/dusty aroma. Being a cooked dark tea I expected the 2 1/2 minute steep to produce an inky black soup.

The taste is wood. Not fresh lumber, but old wood that has begun its transition into rich soil. I am not good at identifying a particular wood but my best guess is cedar. In addition, It does have some spicy notes under the cedar. Like the cup aroma I catch dusty/musty notes that just seem to fit.

Based on the dry aroma, I expected this to have a smoky presence, but that is not really the case. I catch some elements of a charcoal flavor as I exhale. The earthy aftertaste lingers long.

There is no noticeable astringency or bitterness. This is very smooth and easy to sip. I have had far less and far more complex cups of cooked pu-erh. This seems to fit in somewhere in the middle and at the price, would make a solid everyday cup.

You can find Vietnam (Ha Giang) 2007 Wild 'Dark Forest' Dark Tea here.


This morning I grabbed yesterday's leaf and had the second western mug that I didn't have time to prepare before posting the original review. I have changed my mind. I like this even more today. I brewed the second mug for 3 minutes at 200 F. The color is lighter and more caramel than orange. The dusty/musty flavor is still present and rests on top of a stone like taste. Beneath this is a wonderfully sweet fruitiness with cedar and spice notes. Very earthy. Very good. The other thing I notice today is how syrupy thick it feels. This was very good yesterday. Today, maybe I am just more in tuned or something, but I find this cup amazing.

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