Qi Yun Hong Cha (祁韻紅茶) is a top grade experimental black tea, carefully handcrafted from early summer smaller leaves and neat tips. It is made from the brand new Qi Yun (祁韻) TRES #23 cultivar that was first officially unveiled only in 2018. Qi Yun Hong Cha is grown to organic standards around Mingjian Township of Nantou County by Mr Yu and was picked and processed entirely by hand in June 2021. In the same year, Mr Yu also made an early spring Qi Yun GABA Oolong version from the same plants.
The Qi Yun cultivar was introduced by the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station in 2018. The cultivar originated from seeds of Qimen (Keemun) plants brought to Taiwan from Anhui Province of China by professor Ryo Yamamoto in 1938 and planted at the Yuchi research station. The most outstanding plants from the section were selected in 2001 and comparison testing was carried out against the Qing Xin cultivar in 2015-2017. The cultivar was officially named and unveiled as Qi Yun TRES #23 in September 2018 and positioned specifically for black tea making. Essentially this is a small leaf descendant cultivar of Qimen plants and has similar characteristics. The plants have strong growth potential, as well as strong disease and drought resistance. Teas made from these plants tend to have pronounced aroma and sweetness. Mr Yu has experimented making different types of tea from the plants, including green, lightly oxidised oolong, GABA and black. He found that at this point the plants are most suited to GABA oolong and black tea production.
The ancestry of the plants is apparent to anyone familiar with good quality Qimen teas of Anhui Province. The fruity citrus flavours dominate, there is less maltiness but a more pronounced mineral aspect. The further development in Taiwan plus the difference in terroir bring a light mi xiang honey aspect as well as savouriness and richness associated with more assamica based Taiwanese teas like TRES #8 Assamica, TRES #18 Hong Yu and TRES #21 Hong Yun. The resulting cultivar does produce very interesting results, however given the small amount of it currently planted, it remains a rarity. This is further compounded by the fact that each tea is unique and the farmers have to do many experiments to find the best methods of producing new teas like this one.
This Qi Yun Hong Cha consists of neat, wiry leaves with a larger amount of golden tips, something not commonly found in Taiwanese black teas. The neat leaves consist solely of smaller leaves and tips that have been carefully hand processed to retain their shape. It produces a dark amber aromatic liquor with a mineral scent. The soft and mellow taste starts on sweet and tangy fruity notes reminiscent of fruity tobacco and salted plums. There is distinct mineral aspect present from the outset. The flavours in the middle bring out some welcome mi xiang honey notes. These then become more savoury and more similar to classic Taiwanese black teas. This tea finally delivers a lasting aftertaste with a savoury and mineral flavour. It is a complex tea that delivers quite exciting and slightly more unusual flavours – an intriguing further development for the Taiwanese black tea industry.
It is best brewed at 90°C for 2-3 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.
This Qi Yun Hong Cha was first featured in our April 2022 Curious Tea Subscription Boxes.