SMOKE BREAKis a pressed zhengshan xiaozhong—or, lapsang souchong—production from Tongmu, Fujian province, China, pressed in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China. Totally identical to our ZI RAN SMOKE, we asked our Tongmu producer to send a fresh '22 lot of lapsang to our Yunnan pu'er producers for pressing. We already know this tea as a fine example of old world Fujian lapsang, but wanted to run a fun experiment on tea development in the compressed format. Originally, teas (specifically pu'er from southwestern China and its border regions) were pressed for ease of transport; nowadays, producers, wholesalers, and collectors continue the practice for its effect on teas. In the case ofSMOKE BREAK, aging in cake form should bring a tempering of its rich smoke quality, but also give the tea new complexity, as the leaf must be steamed heavily to make it pliable enough to press. This preserves and encourages enzyme activity, and as these 100 gram cakes are loosely compressed to maximize airflow, the tea should see significant changes over time.
Distinguished from commodity lapsang by its smoke-to-dry process, the base tea (ZI RAN SMOKE) is first hand-plucked from wild-growing xingcun xiaozhong cultivar tea trees, withered, hand-rolled in cloth, and left to oxidize fully in bamboo baskets with no yaoxing ("shaking"—a process that accelerates oxidation). The tea is lastly dried in a dedicated smoking room (qing lou—"green house") using tongmu wood burned under the floor. From there, it was shipped to Xindi, where expert hands steamed, pressed, dried, and wrapped the cakes.
This material's quality presents vividly through its smoke, skillfully applied by Zhao to uplift and accent rather than conceal the tea. The harsh weather and alpine terrain of the Wuyi region make for stressed teas with distinct high-mountain character and strong yan yun ("rock quality")—this hongcha is no exception. Steep hot and fast for the intended experience.
vintage —harvested and pressed inspring '22
style — zhengshan xiaozhong ("the mountain small leaf")
cultivar — xingcun xiaozhong
region — Tongmu, Fujian, China / Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China
locale — Zi Ran Hong tea farm / Xindi
elevation — 1300 meters
producer — Zhao Cong
nomenclature — Zi Ran (自然)—"natural" | Hong (红)—"red"