San Xia Mi Xiang Hong Cha (三峽蜜香紅茶) is a distinctive premium grade black tea from Sanxia District of New Taipei City in northern Taiwan. Carefully handpicked leaves of the Qing Xin Gan Zi varietal are specially selected and processed for a lovely Mi Xiang character with smooth notes of acacia honeycomb. It has a wonderfully expressive flavour profile that delivers a taste that is a cross between a light Dian Hong and a well-executed Gui Fei Oolong. Grown at an altitude of between 300m and 600m, it was harvested and processed in June 2020.
The Mi Xiang flavour found here is similar to other ‘Beauty‘ teas. These are unique teas favoured for their honey-like profile that occurs due to presence of little green leaf hoppers (Jacobiasca formosana) that nibble the tea leaves during growth. The tea plants react to this attack by producing more polyphenols, which during processing give the unique ‘beauty tea’ flavour. These tea jassids are an essential aspect in production of some Taiwanese teas. However as the presence and effect of the tea jassid in each harvest cannot be replicated by humans, each harvest is different from one to the next. In this instance, the tea was made into a Hong Cha to better compliment the Mi Xiang flavours that occurred in this batch of picked tea.
The teas from Sanxia District are largely outliers from other Taiwanese teas in terms of picking standard and production. Unlike many other regions of Taiwan that have distinct harvest seasons and where the leaves are harvested with stalks, utilising the top 2-4 leaves and the bud, the harvest in Sanxia occurs when the leaves are picked every 10-14 days. Only the top leaves and buds are harvested, so the leaves are picked without stalk, in a style that is more common with the Mainland Chinese standard of picking. Furthermore, this tea comes from a small cooperative factory of Mr Lee. They work with about 200 very small scale growers in the area who sell their tea leaves to the factory. Depending on the quality and characteristics of each harvest the factory then decides on the best tea to make from each harvest, varying between styles such as Bi Luo Chun or Long Jing for green tea, various types of oolong or by making Hong Cha (red/black tea).
Mr Lee’s factory decided to make a Mi Xiang style Hong Cha from this batch as it already possessed an attractive honey character. Processing it as a black tea rather than a Gui Fei Oolong adds complexity and some unusual flavours. This San Xia Mi Xiang Hong Cha consists of neat dark twisted leaves that produce a honey and malty aroma. The taste is malty and mineral with light tannins at the start. The flavours develop to a more sweet edge which also brings our the honey profile. The honey is not overwhelmingly sweet, instead delivering a flavour that is more akin to acacia honeycomb. The overall impression is very smooth, without astringency and with just a touch of dryness at the end of the flavour. The aftertaste is a little tannic, yet soft and mouthwatering. The honey flavour really starts to stand out once the tea is cooling down.
This tea is best brewed with water at 90°C for 2-3 minutes and the leaves can be brewed 3+ times. For best results brew gong fu style.