Aged Jin Xuan Hong Cha (金萱老紅茶) is a slightly unusual black tea from Taiwan. First, this black tea is crafted from the Jin Xuan (金萱) cultivar plants that are normally used in the making of the very popular Milk Oolong. Secondly, this tea has been aged for 2 years, something that is not that commonly done with black tea. This batch was handpicked in Mingjian Township of Nantou County in June 2020 at an organic tea garden. After careful processing, this tea was stored in airtight containers until July 2022. It produces a smooth and delicate flavour with refined cramy notes and a lightly savoury aftertaste.
It is generally accepted that when it comes to ageing tea, two main tea types are traditionally most suited: pu-erh (and other dark tea) and oolong. While for pu-erh and dark tea, ageing is pretty much their raison d’être, aged oolong is a much more niche field. Certain types of oolong are definitely better suited to ageing and unlike pu-erh, these will often require additional re-roasting as the ageing process progresses. Some amazing aged oolong teas can be found both in mainland China (mostly Wuyi Shan) as well as in Taiwan and we have a small selection of Aged Oolong in our shop. Additionally, a complete newcomer to the aged tea party is Aged White Tea. It has gained widespread popularity in China only in the last 20 or so years.
While black tea can take some ageing, generally the loss of aroma starts to first become evident, especially after about 2 years. Of course the development of each tea will be different so it’s best to keep sampling the tea that is being aged. If experimenting at home and you are starting to feel the aroma fading but the tea not gaining smoothness or alternatively complexity, it is probably best to drink it sooner rather than later.
The main reason for choosing to slightly age this Jin Xuan Hong Cha is the very strong initial flavour that the tea possessed. Due to unusual weather patterns that summer, this tea ended up with a very bold flavour and a little bit of harshness, which was surprising considering the cultivar chosen to make it. Of course when Jin Xuan plant leaves are processed as a black tea, they do not necessarily carry the creaminess that is found in a lightly oxidised oolong. Still there was an expectation of some smoothness of flavour that was found to have been lacking when we tasted the fresh batch. Hence we made a decision to put it aside for 1-2 years to see how it progressed, much like a similar mellowing practice with Dian Hong teas.
We tasted this Jin Xuan Hong Cha last in May 2022 and we thought that it certainly changed flavour and in our opinion improved to become smoother, more delicate and balanced. When we first tasted the initial fresh batch, it was somehow closer to a bold Assamica. But now with passing of time, yes it is a little less aromatic, but the flavours nicely matured. The boldness and slight harshness has been replaced with smooth and more nuanced flavours. This Jin Xuan Hong Cha is almost more like a heavily oxidised oolong in flavour now, with a creamy, golden taste. There are malty, fruity, creamy and sweet notes that are light but present. The characteristic Taiwanese savouriness still features in this tea but is muted and is mostly evident on the finish. It has a mouthwatering aftertaste with no astringency or tannins. We think this tea has developed nicely in 2 years. Adding more years to it would be an interesting experiment but we feel that some of the more delicate notes might start fading after a while.
It is best brewed at 90°C for 3 minutes according to your taste and should be brewed multiple times, increasing steeping time with each brew if desired. For best results we definitely recommend brewing gongfu style.