Changsha Surprise: An Interesting Tan Yang Confounds Expectations

You know you're getting old when you turn down food and partying. I had a full day of cupping tea here in Changsha's Hunan Tea Import/Export Corp. After the first hour or so I lost count and was only going through the motions with most the the tea. I always said you're never too old to learn something new and don't make up your mind until you learn the truth, etc., but after a couple of hours of non-stop cupping I was more than ready to jettison any tea I thought might be inferior due to past experience. After cupping some interesting Yunnan black teas, next up were 10 or 15 black teas from Fujian.

The current economic boom has caused some strange tea phenomena. A few years ago, the puerh craze seemed unstoppable, with even "mom and pop" breaking open their cookie jars to buy puerh as prices skyrocketed. Then the craze was over, largely because of too much bad and phony puerh coming on the market; prices began to return to sane levels. However, if you know the Chinese, one wave is simply not enough. The current craze is for Wuyi yan cha, which are also known for their aging properties. Prices for yan cha have doubled and doubled again. If you think this is insane, there's more: prices for Fujian black teas have been on the rise for several years, with the cost of 金骏眉 (jin jun mei, a type of black tea) selling for as much as 10,000 yuan per pound.

The teas cupped that morning were a selection of 坦洋 (tan yang) and 白琳 (bai lin). They're interesting enough black teas, but with good Yunnan and Qimen available, why bother? Well, Yunnan black and Qimen are not what they used to be, and while I could hear myself sneering at the Fujian blacks in front of me, I went through the motions anyway. All of a sudden and to my surprise, a tan yang jumped out! It wasn't fermented enough for my taste (I think most of the modern black tea from China has this shortcoming) and it ain't supposed to be that good no matter what anyone says, right? Wrong! This tan yang was fruity and floral with a light reddish liquor. The tea was finely sorted with a large amount of golden tips. I decided to buy some and admonished myself for becoming so arrogant as to forget my own sayings...