In Spring 2016, we needed to rent a truck to bring our 400kg of tea to press them in Menghai. We had seen such a truck during our last visit to Nanzuo, a remote village on Jingmai mountain. In no time, we rid our motorbike there and arrived in this windy and empty dirt street. The truck was parked in a courtyard, we entered the house and found a young guy, Chen Xiao Hua.
He accepted to take our tea to Menghai; meanwhile, we had tea at his home and started to talk about the details of processing. He told us he was trying to make good black tea in Nanzuo; something that had never been done before in this remote and conservative Wa village.
In the remote villages, making Pu-erh tea is the norm because of limited demand for special tea and less advanced tea factories. Chen Xiao Hua wants to improve things; he opened the first tea cooperative of Nanzuo in September 2016, with a decent small tea factory opening up more possibilities in terms of processing.
We have become friends and often visit him to try his tea. We tried several of his black tea samples and found an interesting sun-dried black tea, also called Shaihong (晒红).
There are two ways to dry black tea: with hot air in a dedicated machine, or under the sun, laid on bamboo mats. Most of the black tea produced is dried with hot air because it is faster to process and adds more bite to the tea as soon as it is out of the factory. Black tea dried with hot air a make great drink-it-now; if it is dried quickly, it can even add light roasted notes, like our Jingmai black.
Sun-dried black teas are less impressive when they're just out of the factory, but the main difference is they have more potential for aging well, just like Pu-erh tea. Their scents are totally natural, only the result of oxidation. The mouthfeel is more similar to Pu-erh tea, featuring thicker soup and some Huigan (sweet and fresh feeling in the throat). This tea will certainly please people who're looking for unadulterated fragrances and want to drink their tea on the long run. You will see it evolve over the months, and we are confident it will remain attractive for three years or more.