Review: Canton Tea Co. Jiu Qu Hung Mei

Black Tea, Canton Tea Co. Add comments
Raven’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!" The flourish of fruitiness in the delicately floral bouquet infuses each sip with a lovely cherry almond or almond extract flavour for a whimsical diversion from the more typical mineral, grainy black tea flavours. "
Raven’s Teaview: 8.1/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 8.7/10
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cantonquanhungAs a kid I often wished I was double jointed or could tie a cherry pit with my tongue for some cool trick to win some bubble gum or stickers during recess. Then as an adult, I still hoped for such tricks to pick up the lull at a house party. But alas, I’ve nary a contortionist’s blessing. The entertainment from such bodily feats and oddities in general are really what makes the circus so captivating. There are many oddities in the tea world too. In fact, by name alone, teas could sound like a freak show line up with Monkey Kings, Spider legs and Water sprites. So Jiu Qu Hong Mei captured my attention from its dash of the unusual. First, it is a Zhejiang tea, one of the 28 teas produced there yet it is the only black, like a black sheep of the family so to speak. Plus, it’s name means Nine bend Red plum conjuring images of elasto-man or metamorphing trees. So Jiu Qu Hong Mei does indeed seem touched with the spirit of circus treats. It is also not a tea you’d find at every store just like cotton candy or funnel cake. Canton Tea Company is one of the few vendors who brings this circus to town to share the delight of Jiu Qu Hong Mei.
This amusement begins right from the leaves, that would hardly look different if viewed through a mirror funhouse. The spindly dark brownish black of the twisted leaves seems more touched with the occult than the circus. Yet the contortionist would be proud of their matte arabesques bending every which way as their widths shift from loosely open to tightly narrow . Most of the leaves are whole ranging from one inch to one and a third while several leaves sport a curved end like a fish hook which is characteristic of the variety. Comprised of two leaves and a bud, it is hard to identify the buds amongst the dark ominous mix of the thin leaves, buds and moderate amounts of stem.
To truly start the show behind this curtain, Canton Tea Company suggest steeping a full tablespoon for 200 mL which is considerable for a black tea and would likely be about 4 grams. From the first scent of the leaves to divvy them into the pot, it almost does seem as though as if a magical curtain rose for the medium bouquet is so very floral and pretty. With shimmers of rose and carnations, it could rival a white tea with its floral sweetness and daintiness. Yet the scent is lightly backed by an earthier grounding of black tea to make it similar to Keemun while the florals seem streaked with fruit like dried apple or canned pears. The beguiling mix of tender florals, stone fruit and drier scents of the leaves tempts with an air of mystery or illusion. Together the medium aroma reminds me a bit of incense except with an underlying sweetness to the earthier tones.
With water, the leaves begin their act as the nine bends unfurl to transform into their red plum. The richly hued cup is a deep Indian red whose vibrancy is indeed eye-catching, if not completely clear. The medium bouquet is just as animated, sending out tendrils of rose, cherry and cream that are followed with the more elemental rumble of drier and metal like aromas that remind me a bit of pumpernickel bread with caraway. After the initial burst, the amusing rosy florals rest on an almond extract kind of aroma that infuses the cup.
Within the cup, the action is much roastier. The earthy mineral flavours move through the light to medium body with a light dryness that gives the tea a pleasing roundness and weight. The earthy nuances have a neutral grain type of comfort, like pumpernickel or rye bread, rather than a toasted grain while the mineral touches are slightly metallic, slate flavours, likely from the tannins or catechins that add to the enjoyable substance of the tea. From the stage of mineral flavours, there is also a flash of fruitiness that plays on the aroma to add a bit of cherry almond flavours. This delightful touch adds some pop and makes for a custom performance against the more typical black tea flavours. With just a brief pause for applause, the tea has a quick to medium finish, closing with a subtle grain aftertaste.
Raising the leaves for a second tumble, still has much to ooh and aah over. brings another jewel toned cup, more coppery than the first. The cup isn’t quite as fruity as the first having more of a mild cherry tobacco flavour mingling with neutral grains as the bouquet offers a light pear almond extract.
Since the best show always comes from a three ringed circus, for a third infusion, I increased the steeping time to five minutes after tasting along the way. In the final cup, the tea still entertains costumed in a sassy camel hue with a light scent that now ushers in twigs and dry leaves. The cup also becomes earthier, leaning toward slate or silica flavours that still round out the cup with an enjoyable feel.
While there’s no sword swallowing or fifty clowns climbing from each cup of Canton Tea Company’s Jiu Qu Hong Mei, the dramatic brew has enough strength to catch one’s attention in the morning and perhaps prepare one for a day dealing with clowns while its fruity antics could also make for a colourful night.

— To purchase Canton Tea Co. Jiu Qu Hung Mei, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

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