Our Zheng shan xiao zhong is a traditionally smoked black tea from the inside part of Tongmuguan village Masu（麻粟 the highest part of the mountain where Zheng shan xiao zhong originally come from ) on Wuyi mountain in Fujian Province. Resinous pine wood is used to indirectly smoke the tea leaves when they are still fresh. When the leaves are kneaded, the smoke molecules adhering to the leaves will be involved in the complex symphony of changes during oxidation. This is the fundamental transformation step yielding only a shadow of smokiness in your cup but filling it with intricate flavors and a soothing complexity. Tea smoked after oxidation, whether moist or fully dry, will end up just plain smoky.
Have you ever baked a sweet potato wrapped in foil? The flavor of that heavily caramelized semi-solid sticking to the now dried potato skin is carried in both the fragrance and the flavor of this tea. In China this is called gui yuan (桂圆) flavor which is dried Longan fruit. You can only get this complexity and beautiful amber color by smoking first and oxidizing after. Then there is the camphor like cooling finish supplied by two molecules from the wood called terpineol and longifolene. This tea actually goes quite nicely with powerful blue cheeses and the extra flavor mileage puts this in pairing position with 85% dark chocolate and BBQ. It rounds these out with a caramelized maple syrup smokiness and a cool finish.
Storage: Store unused portions sealed in an airtight bag away from sunlight at 75F/24C or below.
Brewing water: Poland Spring (called Origin Brand in some areas) brand mineral water produces the finest results. Soft water, distilled water and hard water will ruin this tea. Tap water varies wildly and is best avoided as well.
Brewing temperature: 99-100C/210-212F
Brewing method: 5g tea leaves (~2 heaping Tablespoons), 100ml (a bit less than 1/2 cup) water each time for 5 seconds in a Chinese gaiwan or a small pot. After the first 10 infusions, increase each infusion time by 5 seconds. To produce lighter tea, either decrease amount of tea, increase amount of water or decrease brewing time. To produce stronger tea, either increase amount of tea, decrease amount of water or increase brewing time. You can easily adjust to suit your individual taste.
Notes: Small quick infusions showcase the changing flavors of each cup. Longer brewing times in larger quantities of water end up more homogeneous, but still very good results.