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Tasting: Imperial Dian Hong, Chinese Red/Black Tea


Richard Kilgore
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This is the second tea tasting of 2009 thanks to eGullet Society member Greg Glancy of Norbutea.com. This time we will be tasting and discussing an Imperial Dian Hong -- a Chinese red tea.

Greg has provided five samples of 10 grams each that I will mail to the five eG Society members participating in this tasting. While the tasting is open to all members who have posted at least five substantive posts in the Coffee and Tea forum, preference will be given until midnight next Monday to those who did not participate in the last tasting of TGY Oolong. Please PM me if you would like to participate in the tasting and discussion.

Here is some background information on Imperial Dian Hong from Norbutea.com. (Copyright Norbutea. Used with permission.)

Dian Hong translates literally as 'Yunnan Red.'  Dian is another name for Yunnan Province, named for the Bronze Age Dian Kingdom that was later incorporated into the Han Empire.  In China, what we refer to as 'black' tea is called 'red' tea because the infused liquor is a reddish brown color. 

This exquisite Dian Hong is hand crafted from estate grown tea from the Feng Qing area to the south of Dali in Western Yunnan.  The whole leaf and bud complexes from the tea plants are hand picked, processed, and rolled by hand into the needle shaped finished product.  It is a remarkably refined black tea with the characteristically Yunnan malty sweetness in the background, a pleasant and slightly drying astringency, and very little bitterness.  It is also quite infusible, lasting well beyond 3 or 4 gong fu style steepings.  For those who are unfamiliar with Yunnan black teas, the flavor is similar to the teas from the Assam region in India.  Whole leaf black tea of this supreme quality is almost unheard of in the Western market for black tea, so enjoy the rare opportunity to taste an incredible example of what skilled craftsmanship can do for the category we know as black tea.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Hope everyone will find their tea sample in the mail by today. I'll try to take some pics of the dry and wet leaf and the liquor tomorrow so others can see what we are brewing.

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Hope everyone will find their tea sample in the mail by today. I'll try to take some pics of the dry and wet leaf and the liquor tomorrow so others can see what we are brewing.

Mine is "trapped" at the local PO. I just have not had a chance to drive over there and fetch it. If I wake up early tomorrow morning, I'll try go get it before heading to work.

Even with all the teas I have on hand, I am looking forward to trying this.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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I got my tea yesterday and brewed up a cup tonight. Drinking it right now.

the dry leaf is long and thin. It made measuring it out with a round measuring spoon a little clunky. A scale would be easier. I used a little more than 2 tsps. Had to sort of eyeball it. Since this is a black tea, water was at full boil. Steeped for 5 minutes.

I like this. For me, it tastes like the way I expect tea to taste. It's very much like the western type black teas I have buying. It's full flavored. I really think that is what I like about black teas.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Here are the dry leaves of the Imperial Dian Hong we are tasting from Norbutea.com.

gallery_7582_6392_50018.jpg

The wet leaves after one infusion, brewed western style for about 3 minutes in a 300 ml Yixing teapot filled with about 240 ml water at 208 F and 4 gr of the dry leaf pictured above. As you can see they are only partly opened and have several more infusions left in them.

gallery_7582_6392_75314.jpg

The liquor from the first infusion.

gallery_7582_6392_45458.jpg

Note: While very good, I would go 5 grams next time with the same paramaters for time, temp and water.

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I got my tea yesterday and brewed up a cup tonight. Drinking it right now.

the dry leaf is long and thin.  It made measuring it out with a round measuring spoon a little clunky. A scale would be easier. I used a little more than 2 tsps.  Had to sort of eyeball it.  Since this is a black tea, water was at full boil.  Steeped for 5 minutes.

I like this. For me, it tastes like the way I expect tea to taste. It's very much like the western type  black teas I have buying. It's full flavored. I really think that is what I like about black teas.

Hello- Have you ever had Keemun? I always recommend it to people who describe their tasts the way you do and,at least so far, I have not had any complaints :cool: .

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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Hello-(again)I brewed the Dian Western-style and I thought it benefited from an extended (over 3 min.) steeping time. I enjoyed it.Thanks :smile:

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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What tea:water ratios and steeping times are you all using? Are you doing multiple infusions? If not, give it a try. These leaves will continue to unfold over several infusions. Even western style I have gotten 5 or more out of these leaves.

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What tea:water ratios and steeping times are you all using? Are you doing multiple infusions? If not, give it a try. These leaves will continue to unfold over several infusions. Even western style I have gotten 5 or more out of these leaves.

The mug I use to brew one cup hold about 8 ounces. I brewed first infusion at 4 minutes. Second at 5. I didn't go more than that because I did this in the evening. Also, I find that multiple infusions aren't really convenient for me. Brewing tea one cup at a time seems cumbersome. Besides, the most I might really drink in any one setting would be three.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Up early thanks to the Nor'easter and, after making my wife a cappucino, I broke into the Imperial Dian Hong. (Thanks to Richard once again for setting this up and dispensing the samples.) My usual routine: 5g of tea, 400g of water just below boiling, 4 minutes in a prewarmed ingenuiTEA steeper.

The color is a deep reddish brown. The aroma is intoxicating, with a woody, rich base and smoky top notes. It's a cross between (idiosyncratic comparison ahead) deep Maine woods and the Russian dry heat saunas at Brooklyn's Sandoony spa.

The flavor is smooth and not at all bitter, a surprise since I'm used to that bitter edge when drinking a tea this black. I have to say that the flavor isn't as intense as the aroma for me; it's got the same elements but is more muted.

It's terrific, no doubt, but I'm not used to a tea that has a bigger nose than tongue. Takes getting used to.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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  • 2 weeks later...

I brewed the remaining 7 to 8 grams of tea Western-style today in a BeeHouse pot that holds about 22 ounces; water just at the boil and a 5-minute steeping. So far, I have re-steeped the leaves once with little loss of flavor.

Nice rich, reddish brown color; flavor is very smooth and rounded, though not as hearty as the typical Yunnans. I didn't detect much aroma while brewing or sipping. These whole leaves drastically reduce the amount of sediment that makes it through the strainer and into the cup.

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This is definitely a case of YMMV. Some of the individual responses to this tea are strikingly interesting.

Chris found that...

....................

The aroma is intoxicating, with a woody, rich base and smoky top notes. It's a cross between (idiosyncratic comparison ahead) deep Maine woods and the Russian dry heat saunas at Brooklyn's Sandoony spa.

The flavor is smooth and not at all bitter, a surprise since I'm used to that bitter edge when drinking a tea this black. I have to say that the flavor isn't as intense as the aroma for me; it's got the same elements but is more muted.

It's terrific, no doubt, but I'm not used to a tea that has a bigger nose than tongue. Takes getting used to.

On the other hand, the baroness found that...

I brewed the remaining 7 to 8 grams of tea Western-style today in a BeeHouse pot that holds about 22 ounces; water just at the boil and a 5-minute steeping. So far, I have re-steeped the leaves once with little loss of flavor.

Nice rich, reddish brown color; flavor is very smooth and rounded, though not as hearty as the typical Yunnans. I didn't detect much aroma while brewing or sipping. These whole leaves drastically reduce the amount of sediment that makes it through the strainer and into the cup.

Do you two have any ideas about the difference in your comments about the aroma?

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I was going to write more about the IDH today after an interesting cup yesterday. The nose was still there for me, same rich, excellent aroma. But this time the flavor was there as well: it was a much better tea.

There were three differences in my brewing. I used tap water from my house, not tap from my work. I brewed at a slightly lower temperature (didn't measure). And, I think most notably, I brewed for an additional two minutes. I can't explain baroness's failure to detect the same aroma -- and as I indicated, my experience with the smell was quite idiosyncratic. But my guess is that this tea benefits from a longer steep.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I think you are on to something, Chris. Changing brewing parameters, even a little bit, can affect the tea dramatically. As can water.

Have you tried using filtered water or quality bottled water? While I have only rarely gone to the expense of bottled, I routinely use a simple, inexpensive Britta jug filter for both tea and coffee. It would be interesting to see what happens with your tea brewing with filtered.

My experience is that taste and aroma may be affected by many other things...what I have eaten or drunk recently, residual soap or toothpaste, congestion due to a cold or allergy. And sometimes it's just an unsolved mystery.

I hope that sometime you will try gongfu style brewing with a Yixing teapot or a gaiwan for this or another good Chinese tea. I brewed this Imperial Dian Hong today in my little gaiwan and have had four very good infusions out of it, with several more to go.

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Since the leaves were still in the pot from last night, I tried another Western-style steeping (#3). The color of the brewed tea is considerably lighter now, as is the flavor. If I didn't know what I was drinking, I would guess it's oolong...not a bad thing.

As far as parameters are concerned, I used Brita-filtered NYC water at all times.

I find it interesting that the previous tea we reviewed was highly fragrant but very subtly flavored, where this tea was the opposite.

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Thanks to baroness, naftal, jpr54_, jsmeeker amd chrisamirault for participating in this tasting of an Imperial Dian Hong red/black tea. And thanks to eGullet Society member Greg Glancy at norbutea.com for providing the tea. Greg has chosen not to post during these tastings, so as not to influence in any way the tasters' responses.

I'll start a topic soon for the next tasting. This time a cooked Puehr. And again, I'll make the 5 free samples from Greg available first to members who posted in Coffee and Tea at least 5 times and have not participated previously in one of these tastings. If you subscribe to the Coffee and Tea forum you will not miss it.

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