The Qimen That Might Have Sugar

One day I went up to Tang Kou to have lunch with the Cha Shan farmer. It was the off season and I just wanted to spend the day with him. While I waited for him to pick me up I popped into a antiques shop to kill some time. 

The Lady there was so nice. She took the time to show me around the shop, taking out small trinkets for me to have a closer looking at even though she knew I probably wasn't going to buy anything. I looked around the shop for something I could buy and my eye came upon a shelf. 

The shelf has different food items all part of the well known local cuisine known as Hui Cai. (pronounced: hway ts-eye). On the shelf was cured meat, spicy fermented tofu and tea. I browsed through the tea and picked up one with a leaf shape I didnt quiet reconize. The leaves were big and rolled, sorta like a gua pian. I took a smell and was met with a deep pine needle aroma. When I asked about it the shop keeper just said it was average tea. I picked up a bag or two and went on my way. 

At home I tried the tea. I think it took me about two tries to really see it. This tea has a deep sugary body like I had never seen. Thick and chocolatey, with a touch of bitterness, this tea was just like drinking dark chocolate. I put it on the website and everyone who bought it was also shocked just by how rich and chocolatey the body was. I decided to get the local opinion about it. 

I took this tea to a local tea shop. To be honest the owner was not my favorite tea person in town. Her book knowledge far surpassed her ability to taste and she could be unfairly critical to a tea, always thinking her tea was better. (A common problem here). That being said I was looking for a harsh critic so she was just what I wanted. 

I had given this tea to one other person who had written it off by the look alone. Seeing all leaves and no bud, the women had preassumed it was a bad tea. This time I asked to brew the tea with out having the lady look at the leaves. 

"This is amazing" She exclaimed after taking the first sip. "Can I see the leaves?" Getting what I wanted I gave her a look. Her expression changed immedietely. She thought and then asked me to brew the tea three times, putting each brew in a different pitcher. Once I did this she began to laugh. She assured me that this tea infact had sugar. Her proof was the dark color of the leaves, the intense sweetness and the fact that this tea faded quickly. 

I had noticed all of these things before but had attributed it to intense making. The chocolate flavor is a common flavor in tea and is the result of a high baking. The sugars in the leaf caramilze giving you the chocolate notes. The down side to this process is that it covers up any other potential notes, much like a highly roasted wuyi oolong. This, along with the late picked leaves, would explain these characterstics that she attributed to sugar. I tried to share these thought but she was instistant that I had been tricked and that forgeiners were often tricked. I left her shop not convinced. 

From there I went to Xiao Qiao's shop.  Xiao Qiao is a Qimen native living in Tunxi. Her understanding of qimen tea and its flavors is much deeper than most of the people in Tunxi. I took the tea to her and followed the same procedure as I did the first lady. 

Xiao Qiao didn't say anything, but I could see what she was thinking. I simply asked "Does this have artificial flavors" to which she meekly smiled and noded.

I was still convinced. I had had a Qimen before with similar thickness and it didnt taste artificial to me. The sweetness comes out more in boiling water which I would think would be the opposite of sugar. That being said I was not too proud to ignore two tea professionals. I went home and took it off the website. 

I messaged the lady who sold it to me and she assured me nothing was added, but she of course could have a clear bias. 

The tea sat on my shelf until this last month. I recent received a package from One River Tea containing a En Shi red tea. This red tea was of higher quality with a better picking then my Qimen, but showed signs of a thick sugariness simialr enough to the Qimen to make me once again think no sugar was added. This idea was re enforced when I was gifted another Qimen with an even more similar sugariness! This led me to the conclusion that this level of sweetness really was possible naturally. 

Next spring I plan to go to the factory myself and see the making with my own eyes. Only then can I really be sure it has no artifical flavor. Till then the tea sits on my shelf. 

Would you drink a tea that could possible have sugar? 
Should I have taken it off the website or left it on? 
Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

If you are interested in trying this tea send me an email at