A medium-strong black tea from southwest China.
Imagine, for a moment, a parallel universe where “normal tea”, as known by the brewing masses, is black tea from China rather than the Indian subcontinent. Suppose that the tea consumed by the lorryload here in Britain came not from the breakfast-blend heartland of Assam, but from just a few hundred miles east along the Himalayan foothills, in the Chinese province of Yunnan.
It’s OK, I’m not pitching you an idea for a (very dull) science fiction film. I just want to highlight how fickle is our entrenched idea of a ‘normal’ flavour for tea. Most people in this country are accustomed to a malty blend of Assam with Ceylon or perhaps African teas. Yunnan black tea is slightly more earthy and just a little more pungent (it is a distant cousin of Puer tea) – different, but not exactly a shock.
Yunnan black tea is a wonderful combination of ancient and modern. The tea plant is native to Yunnan province and the neighbouring highlands, so you can be sure that tea grown here is right at home. There are wild tea trees in Yunnan that are nearly 2,000 years old, making them the oldest in the world. Some cultivated trees are over 800 years old, still producing new leaves for the pot each season. And yet Yunnan’s black tea is a surprisingly recent creation. The Chinese tend to drink relatively little black tea compared to green tea, and Yunnan only started making it in 1939, when the Chinese government needed to raise money for the war effort.
Overall, it is a consistently excellent tea for a very reasonable price. You do not truly know black tea until you have tried the Chinese offerings, especially Yunnan and Keemun. You may never go back to English Breakfast blend. Or to coffee. Or to your family. It’s that good.