What Is Chinese Dark Tea (Hei Cha)

Chinese Dark tea is one of the six types of traditional Chinese tea.

Dark tea is generally made from coarse and old raw materials. In addition, it is often piled up and fermented for a long time in the producing process, so the tea leaves are black or dark brown. This is why it is called Dark tea.

Dark tea is a kind of post-fermented tea and it is mainly produced in Yunnan, Guangxi, Anhui, Sichuan, Hubei, and Hunan Province.

Dark tea has a long history of production. The name “Hei Cha” (Dark Tea) was first appeared in 1524 (During the Ming Dynasty).

1. Characteristics of Chinese Dark tea

Dark tea is called Hei Cha in Chinese Pinyin. Hei means “Dark” or “Black”; Cha means “Tea”.

Pile-fermentation is a key process for producing Dark tea. The fresh tea leaves should be piled on the back window, clean ground, and avoid direct sunlight. The the room temperature should be above 25℃ and the relative humidity should be kept at about 85%.

With the degree of the Pile-fermentation, the color of the tea leaves will change from green to yellow, chestnut red, and Dark or black, which are classified as Dark tea academically.

The shape of Dark tea is various, such as loose tea, cake-shaped tea, bowl-shaped tea, heart-shaped tea, brick-shaped, etc.

The color of dried Dark tea is mostly black with yellow or brown. Some Dark tea can grow a kind of beneficial bacteria called “Golden Flower”, such as Fu Brick tea and Liu Bao tea.

The color of the tea soup is often red, amber red, brown, etc.

The fragrance of Dark tea includes smoking pine fragrance, aged fragrance, flower fragrance, fungus fragrance, etc.

The taste of it is mellow, aged, sweet aftertaste, and meaningful.

In China, Dark tea is a necessity for the daily life of ethnic minorities such as Tibetans, Mongolians, and Uygurs. They have a proverb that they would rather have no food for three days than Dark tea for one day.

2. Five main types of Chinese Dark teas

According to its producing area, Chinese Dark teas can be classified into five main types and each type has its famous Dark teas.

1. Yunnan Dark tea

Pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea is made from the fresh tea leaves of a special tea tree that is mainly growing in Yunnan Province, so Pu-erh tea is a unique tea in this Province. It is the most famous tea of Yunnan Province and is known to the world.

The traditional Pu-erh tea belongs to Yunnan Dark tea. But with the development of Pu-erh tea, there are many new kinds of Pu-erh tea invented, such as Pu-erh green tea, Pu-erh black tea, Pu-erh oolong tea, etc. So today, many people consider Pu-erh tea is a special category of Chinese tea due to its popularity and variety.

Yunnan Tuo tea

Yunnan Tuo tea is produced in Dali City of Yunnan Province. It was first created in 1917. The shape of it is like a bowl, so it is also called Yunnan Bowl tea.

Qizi Bing Cha

Qizi Bing Cha literally called Seven Sons Cake tea is produced in Xishuangbanna of Yunnan Province. The shape of it is like a round cake. The local people often pack every seven pieces of cake tea together, so it is called “Seven Sons”.

2. Hunan Dark tea

Hunan Dark tea is mainly produced in Anhua County in Yiyang City of Hunan Province, so it is usually called Anhua Dark tea. It was first created in 1524.

Anhua Dark tea has many varieties, mainly including Fu Brick tea, Dark Brick tea, Hua Brick tea, Qian Liang tea, and San Jian tea (loose tea).

Hunan Dark tea is a national geographical indication product of China and its producing technology was listed in the national intangible cultural heritage protection list in 2008.

3. Guangxi Dark tea

The most famous tea of Guangxi Dark tea is Liu Bao tea.

Liu Bao tea literally called Six Forts tea is produced in Liu Bao Town, Guangxi Province and is a National Geographic Indicator Product of China.

Liu Bao tea is made from the fresh leaves of local tea trees growing in Guangxi Province. The authentic Liu Bao tea has the flavor of pine smoke and areca nut.

“Red, Thick, Mellow, and Aged” is the obvious characteristic of Liu Bao tea.

4. Sichuan Dark tea

Sichuan Dark tea also called Zang Cha (Tibetan tea) is originated in Ya’an City of Sichuan Province.

Zang Cha has been a thousand-year-old tea since it was recorded in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). The production process of Zang Cha is extremely complex and made by 32 ancient methods.

Since ancient times, Zang Cha has been sold to Tibetan communities in the west of Ya’an and it is a necessity of Tibetan life. So it is called Zang Cha. Zang means “Tibetan”.

5. Hubei Dark tea

Hubei Dark tea also called Lao Qing Cha or is produced in Hubei Province. The shape of it is like brick, so it is also called Qing Brick tea.

In the 18th century, it was mainly exported to Europe. The more aged the tea, the more valuable it is.

3. Health benefits of Chinese Dark tea

Dark tea is rich in nutrients, mainly including vitamins, minerals, protein, amino acid, carbohydrate, etc.

For the residents of Northwest China who mainly eat beef, mutton, and cheese, long-term drinking Dark tea can supply essential minerals and various vitamins. So in ancient times, many kinds of Dark teas were sold to Northwest China. They call Dark tea “The tea of life”.

Japanese scholars have proved that through scientific research that Dark tea has a strong function of removing greasiness and promoting digestion, which is also the reason why meat-eating people especially like this kind of tea.

Here are the main benefits of Chinese Dark tea:

  • Diuresis
  • Anti-aging
  • Anti-cancer
  • Weight loss
  • Detoxifying
  • Promoting digestion
  • Removing greasiness
  • Protecting intestines and stomach
  • Anti-inflammatory and sterilization
  • Lowering cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
  • Etc.

4. How to make/brew Chinese Dark tea

  • Tea set: ceramic teapot is the best.
  • The ratio of tea leaves to water: 1:20-30. 5g of Dark tea leaves need 100-150ml of water.
  • The temperature of the water: 100℃.

This is not the only standard. Some dark teas need to be boiled for a few minutes to dink.