Many thanks to Teavivre for this sample of dianhong, which gives me a much-needed excuse to get some air to my neglected hongcha pot.
Pictured below, the rather nifty sample-bags, each of which contains a little pouch of tea.
I've been rather impressed by the sheer volume of information presented on the company's web-site for each of the teas that they sell. Some of it is fascinating, some of it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt ("this black tea has about 20% of the caffeine of a cup of coffee"), but all of it is well-presented and welcome.
The web-page tells me that this tea comes from the Fengqing Sunning Tea Co., based in Fengqing County of Lincang, which is a town also home to the eponymous company that is credited with the first dianhong (and which now does a nice line in Lincang pu'ercha).
It makes sense to include "Fengqing" in your company's name if you're making dianhong, for the same reason that pu'ercha companies sometimes include "Menghai" in their names.
The leaves of this tea really are rather lovely; the photograph above does not do justice to the long, golden tips that have been included, which have a pure and dazzling colour that is almost yellow. Its aroma is a misleading, candy-like sweetness. I use the term "misleading" because this is dianhong, which is the Chuck Norris of hongcha.
N.B.: this is meant not in the sense of an old man spouting unpleasant right-wing views, but rather the Chuck Norris of a bygone age who was the nemesis of Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon.
This reminds me of dinner-time fights between me and my son: Anglo-Saxon vs. Oriental
Dianhong is therefore a robust, almost meaty hongcha that has little truck with feminine characteristics such as candy-like sweetness. Dianhong is one of my favourite teas, after pu'ercha, along with Qimen hongcha ("Qihong"), Sichuan gongfu, and (Fujian) Bailin gongfu. It's a chunky hongcha.
For the first two or three infusions, this dianhong is faultless, like Chuck Norris in the opening bouts of the finale of Way of the Dragon. It lands a series of solid, uncompromising strikes, including a surprisingly robust kuwei [throaty bitterness] and something resembling a huigan [returning sweetness in the throat], both of which I usually only get from pu'ercha.
It has an undercurrent of meaty maltiness, and the characteristics of a rather accomplished hongcha.
Unfortunately, rather like Chuck Norris in the finale of Way of the Dragon, it can't go the distance: by the time we're onto the third and fourth infusion, the infusion times have to be drawn out to long periods, in order to coax some contents out of the leaves. It seems that they peaked too early, and put too much into those early rounds, without thought of the longer encounter. We all know how it ended for Chuck Norris' character at the hands of Bruce Lee. Ouch.
It is a very good little hongcha, but three infusions isn't really enough for me to consider it a great hongcha. The price is $17/100g, which is quite high. Recalling that hongcha is exceedingly inexpensive in most Mainland markets, it really needs to be a little more special than this to command such a towering price.
Thanks again to Teavivre for the excellent session.