What do wellness-focused consumers want in their cuppa? Xie Huiqun discovers rare mountain teas and brews made from cacao beans and pepper vines that will rejuvenate even the most jaded palates.
Up in the misty mountainous regions of China, deep in the natural forests, located at high altitudes of 1,000 meters or more above sea level, is where one will find some of the best and most exclusive wild tea plants. These precious plants are exposed to abundant sunlight, a sufficient amount of rain, and extreme temperature differences between day and night, which are deemed favourable, shares Annie Sun, group chief executive officer of Dynaforce International. Sun is also the founder of Hui Rui Tang – a nascent and bespoke tea boutique specialising in health enhancing teas from the wild forests and mountains of China.
“Unlike plantation tea, wild tea does not depend on chemicals, pesticides or fertilisers. They are deep-rooted plants and have the capability of absorbing more nutrients from the fertile forest soil, living in symbiotic harmony with adjacent wild plants, many of which have medicinal value. This diverse forest environment produces more complex aromas and flavours in wild tea,” says Sun.
One such region is the Anhua County in central China where the world famous Dark Tea (a class of tea that has undergone microbial fermentation, from several months to many years) reigns. The fermentation of tea leaves alters their chemistry, affecting the smell of the tea and typically mellowing its taste, reducing astringency and bitterness while improving mouth feel and aftertaste. Besides aiding digestion and relieving fatigue, wild Anhui Dark Tea also contains vitamins, minerals and amino acids that contribute to improving overall wellness. Unlike green tea, which may lose its flavour within a year, fermented dark tea can retain its flavour for many years. This is the reason why fermented dark tea has long been used as a “currency” for barter trade in the Silk Route in the 19th century.
A sip of this prized Anhui Dark Tea will reveal a marvellously mellow and mildly smokey flavour that lingers on the palate. A second or third cup and the exquisite nuances unfurl, and you may experience a gentle warmth spreading through your body as the goodness of wild tea works its to soothe your soul.
A Gift from Mother Nature
“High altitude teas are typically more rich, smooth and fragrant,and you can brew them many more times before they lose their flavour, but they grow freely among all kinds of other vegetation and are also usually difficult to reach,” says Sun, who honed her appreciation of tea from her mother, a tea connoisseur. Sun tells us that wild tea farmers often need to hire tea pickers, who are paid by the weight of the tea picked each day. They have to go up into the mountains and deep into the forests to pick the tea each morning and return to the collection centre in the late afternoon.
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