Throughout the history of China, many poems and odes have been written to tea, from the Cha Chin by Tang Dynasty writer Lu Yu, to Wen Zhenheng s Treatise on Superfluous Things, Incense and Tea, published during the Ming Dynasty. The ancient writers were inspired by the artistry and natural elegance of tea production, from the harvesting of the fresh leaf to the gentle baking and drying as it was transformed into its drinkable form. One such writer, Gao Qi, is rumored to have penned the following poem during a visit through Anhui province many years ago not far from the site where Keemun Hoa Ya A is produced to this day.
I heard Sound of spinning wheel
Mixed with sound of flowing water
Sight of wooden bridge,
Flowerless trees in hazy spring
Where from the aroma the breeze brought so close?
Oh, next neighbor is baking afternoon tea!
It isn t hard to understand how the natural beauty of Anhui would inspire such a poem – a large swath of the region is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. True to the poem, the raw leaves plucked to make Hoa Ya A, are still harvested and manufactured during springtime when they are plump with moisture and rich in flavor.
In China, the tea is known as a Gong Fu tea, which means “great labor” on account of the hard work and time required to produce it. How hard is the work? Keemun Hoa Ya A is hand-sorted before firing and then hand-sorted again before packing. The hard work also means it is exceptionally rare – one producer only makes 120 kg per year. (In total, the entire province of Anhui produces only 1200 kg per year.) Also true to the poem, Keemun Hoa Ya A imparts a warm bakey aroma both during production and in the cup. Many tasters describe its profile as being reminiscent of toast hot from the oven slathered in berry jam. The character can also be described as Burgundy-like, owing to the deep winey notes that permeate the cup. (Interestingly, like a fine burgundy, many connoisseurs believe that Keemun Hoa Ya A improves with age, and subsequently store batches the way one would wine.) A remarkable tea worth writing about!