Thursday, November 3, 2011

Red Circle Tea's Ying De red tea

Red Circle Tea's Keemun red tea
Well, it's been quite some time, hasn't it?  I've been up to all sorts of tea mischief and sacrilege.  Although my love of puer is set in stone I've been sampling other kinds of tea more recently, feeling called to expand my knowledge and appreciation.  I've even been trying out flavored teas, curious to know what the experience of "vanilla jasmine" or "coconut pouchong" is like.  For the most part, I haven't enjoyed many of these flavored teas.  I find them one-dimensional with lots of (often cloying) aroma and very little taste.  But a few have made for fun "light" drinking, most notably some of the teas that Golden Moon Tea carries.  After trying many flavored teas from many companies, I think what makes Golden Moon's teas a notch better is that they begin with a higher quality leaf.  I was surprised to find nothing but whole beautiful leaves in my cup with their coconut pouchong.  They also strike a good balance with their flavoring elements.

But the tea I've been drinking a lot more of lately is red tea, or hong cha, which many Westerners regard as black tea.  Now I'm no expert on this type of tea.  I didn't grow up drinking English Breakfast tea and never developed a liking for the mainstay Lipton variety tea you find all over the US.  Rather, I'm coming to red tea with the mind and experience of a puer drinker, searching for depth and complexity and that certain wow-factor.  I've sampled plenty of red teas that remind me very much of what's generally known as plain old black tea here in the US.  They haven't impressed me.  I finally found something different, special and memorable in some of the red teas that Red Circle Tea carries.  Specifically, their Ying De red tea, which (not surprisingly) they report as their best-selling red tea.  It's a 2010 spring harvest red tea from the Guangdong region of China, and it's got plenty of wow.

I confess I didn't take notes on this tea while drinking it, and since I only ordered a sample I haven't had the chance to revisit it yet.  But when I find my mind haunted by the experience and taste of a certain tea, eliciting an ever-growing longing for it, I know I've hit on something good.  It had depth and complexity, with an intoxicating malty sweet berry fragrance and taste that dove deep.  I remember earlier this year when Brett Boynton (of Black Dragon Tea Bar and Phoenix Tea Shop) served me a similarly wonderful red/black tea that he was very impressed with, but at the time I was drinking puer exclusively and so didn't take him up on the offer of acquiring some.  My mistake.  I'm so happy to have found something very similar now in this Ying De tea.

a bit of golden halo on the Keemun red

Another Red Circle Tea I've been enjoying very much is their Keemun red tea, another 2010 spring harvest, this one from Anhui, China.  It seems that Keemun teas are a primary component of English Breakfast variety teas, and while I can detect a similarity in taste and aroma this tea strikes me as particularly noteworthy.  But remember!  I didn't grow up drinking English Breakfast and my few experiences with it (long ago) have all been from cheap store-bought tea bags.  So it's quite safe to say that I wouldn't know a good English Breakfast tea from a bad one.  All I'm going on here is what and how I've learned to appreciate tea from drinking puer, and I'm finding this Keemun tea is making for some very enjoyable tea sessions.

Speaking of puer, I see that Red Circle Tea has a small selection although I haven't sampled any.  Only one cake (cooked) and a few somewhat-aged loose leaf puerhs, along with a couple of bricks and a tuo.  At least they don't offer those little generic mini-tuos, and what they do offer is well-described with regard to year and quality.  In fact, I really like that all of their teas are shown with detailed descriptions and (so far as I can tell) spot-on tasting notes.  I even received a classy little "tea menu" with my sample order that I thought was a very nice touch.

One last tea-related update -- Chinese tea eggs!!  I love-love-love these and made up a batch for a potluck recently.  They turned out wonderfully.  The key (in my opinion) to tasty tea eggs is to let them soak in the tea liquid AT LEAST overnight.  Those "soak for a few hours" recipes just don't do it.  I like my tea eggs well-flavored!  Here's the recipe I use --

Chinese Tea Eggs

1 dozen eggs
1 1/2+ cup soy sauce (more if liquid needs replenishing after simmering)
3 star anise pods
a good-sized chunk of decent shu puer leaves (as if you were going to make a pot for two or three friends)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tb. sugar
a few whole cloves
a teaspoon of five-spice powder (just to be sure, although it's a repeat of the above ingredients, but like I said -- I like my tea eggs well seasoned!)

Boil the eggs in plain water for 3-5 minutes, enough to begin to solidify the the egg whites but not so long that you completely hard-boil them.  Remove from heat and place under cool running water just long enough to be able to handle them without burning your fingers.  Once they're cool enough to handle crack the shell of each egg individually using the back of a spoon.  You want to crack them pretty well so that the shells are lumpy and uneven but still attached to the inner membrane.  If you end up causing a few deeper cracks into the softly solidified egg whites then it's all the better (it allows the flavorful marinating liquid to really penetrate deeply).  Put the eggs back into the boiling pot with enough water to just barely cover them.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring the pot to boiling again.  Once it's at boiling reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 40 minutes.  If you need to add more liquid, add additional soy sauce.  After 40 minutes of simmering let the eggs cool in the marinating liquid and then transfer to a large glass bowl to set in the refrigerator overnight (some people let them sit for two or three nights in the fridge).  Peel and enjoy :)


  1. Hi Bev :) This tea sounds great to me. I have a lot of respect for Red Circle. Those ladies have the lock on some amazing Chinese tea.

    The tea we drank together last spring was Formosa Bonita (on my blog 3-8-11). That's sold out but I have another hongcha in mind that I'd really like you to try after reading this post. Believe it or not it's Kenyan. Email me and I can arrange some samples.

  2. It is nice to see you back in "keyboard world"...New tea experiences on new ChaBu ? I enjoyed it, thanks.


  3. Golden Moons Coconut Pouchong is without a doubt one of the finer flavored teas. Marcus uses really good quality leaf. While I'm a purist when it comes to tea's I did enjoy the sample I received.

    The tea's at Red Circle sound really good, but a bit too pricey for my likes.

    Good to see your posts again.

  4. ahh tea friends :) Good to be back. Brett -- most definitely interested in that tea you mention! I'll be in contact.

    Petr -- thank you :) I've been dabbling in clay again these past few months. No idea what I'm actually doing, but I'm doing it anyway!

    CloudMountain -- thank you :) I think of you sometimes, up there in BC, wondering about the tea shop endeavor. Nice to hear your notes on Golden Moon's teas. If you know of any other places that have exceptional red teas that aren't so pricey I'd love to hear about them :)

  5. Hi LTPR,

    The Red tea you spoke of looks excellent, and I might consider making a purchase. i have one point of contention though - those prices on pu-erh are just obscene. 66 dollars for a xiaguan tuo from 2004? Ebay sellers like Red Lantern and China Cha dao have stuff like that for much cheaper. Either way, no biggie. I'm enjoying your blog! - The Green Poet

  6. Green Poet,
    Yes, the prices are very high. I have another Ying De red sample coming soon from Jing Tea Shop that is more reasonably priced and will be interested to do a taste compare. Always great to read your blog and comments :)