Tuesday, February 24, 2015

1970s Fuzhuan Brick (People’s Unification Tea)

Under the reign of Chairman Mao Zedong and the Communist Party private ownership of tea factories became illegal. This hefty 1970s Fuzhuan tea (aka Fu brick tea) from Sichuan Province, Guanxi weighing 3kg represents a united co-operative of the people under a socialist economy. The socialist approach is based on production for use and to satisfy the basic demands and needs of the people for all the people. Unlike capitalism the basis of production is not for profit and therefore not to cater for special groups of consumers with the wealth to make purchases in order to accumulate capital. This tea is symbolic of the belief and idealism at the time and was produced by the people and for the people under the management of the Chinese government.

At the time the new and united nation of “The People’s Republic of China” under Chairman Mao would be marked by rapid changes and grandiose projects that would be pushed by strong idealism. The sense of togetherness and unity that was being projected by the government during this period of time was essential to spread and generate acceptance for government endeavors. The label for this Fuzhuan tea “People’s Unification Tea” represents one of many avenues that would be used by the government to communicate and impact social change and people’s thinking through propaganda.- Note the similar style and design of the tea label to the propaganda posters under Chairman Mao's Era here and here.


An observation of this old and historic tea brick reveals that the processing was rudimentary and basic. The state of the leaves is loose, very broken and have not undergone any fine processing other than steaming and compression into the required brick shape. The tea is very well protected in a thick cardboard packaging that is reinforced with a layer of plastic wrap. Despite appearances this tea provides a remarkable experience. It is a reminder that we shouldn't prejudge the worth of something by its appearance alone. After enjoying a number of tea sessions with these broken and crude looking leaves I have come to greatly appreciate this tea. The inner beauty of this tea shines brightly through by inducing an invigorating and yet a uniquely calming and relaxing state that is an intrinsic quality of age tea.


After
awakening the leaves with hot boiling water the aroma reveals heady scents of old tobacco combined with herbs and wood. The taste of the age brew is astonishingly clean and pure. It is interesting to note that this tea possesses none of the dark and heavy fermented characteristics of older puerh teas. The liquor is mildly sweet, active in the mouth and provides a strong cooling sensation and lasting fragrance at the back of the throat upon swallowing. This is not a complex tea but the brew presents a dynamic character and possess little nuances that emerges when the brew is held in the mouth and allowed to gently flow and immerse the senses. Drinking this historic tea brick is a reminder of the hard times in China when the Chinese people endured great hardship and enjoyed simple pleasures.

 Reference made on different 1960s Fu brick teas in a publication catalog.

See more teas from the Tea List

Additional Note: It is my impression that the quality of the brew from this 1970s Fuzhuan tea is remarkable when taking into account the mix of broken and crude tea leaves that forms this brick tea. In part this tea is a wonderful example of the benefits that can be reaped from long term aging through natural storage. Having had an opportunity to drink and reflect on other Fuzhuan teas from different decades I find that the quality of the brew from this 1970s Fuzhuan tea to stand out noticeably from the others. This leads me to speculate on the quality of the raw material that was used for this vintage tea brick with perhaps an association with the time during the 1970s. It is my belief that despite the lack of fine processing (to select only the best and most tender of leaves) these rough and crude mix of leaves nevertheless benefited greatly from excellent growing conditions that came from a more natural, cleaner and nutrient rich environment when compared to subsequent decades and the world we live in now. The intensive and exploitative farming for agricultural produce that have become common place today relies heavily on chemical fertilizers and pesticides that wreak havoc on soil quality. This consequently will cause the farmer to have to continuously increase the use of chemicals in the following years to make up for the soil deficiency. Modern farm land under this kind of long term exploitation will accumulate more and more chemicals over time and have less diversity and naturally rich nutrients for plant life to grow. It is my understanding that this prolonged cycle will lower the quality of plant and animal life that inhabit the land and effect us as consumers.

7 comments:

  1. Fu Zhuan often is characterized by the presence of golden flowers fungi, something I enjoy in heicha, do you see any evidence of this growth? Also I thought this was one of the border teas sent to Tibet and Mongolia for the most part. While the tea may be part of the culture, I wonder what these regions thought of the ideals behind the label.

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    1. Hello Cwyn,

      It is interesting you brought this up. I don’t recall seeing any obvious signs of the golden flowers on the older Fu teas I have encountered. It is the newer Fu teas that have these yellow spots everywhere. I am wondering if this is related to aging.

      “Also I thought this was one of the border teas sent to Tibet and Mongolia for the most part.” +1

      There are many types and categories of tea in China and each individual tea has generally its own local and regional base of appreciation. For Fu tea that base is mainly northwest China that includes Tibet and minorities along the frontiers. There are stories about the Mongolian invasion by Genghis Khan and how heicha helped cure dysentery that affected the Mongolian hordes. I am told that is the root for the popularity of the tea in Mongolia.

      Best, VP

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    2. Fu teas develop flowers more after 5 years. Really depends upon the storage. If too dry, it could wake up with some humidity. The flowers give the tea a tangy flavor and are quite worth it. In my Liu Bao, the flowers come and go with humidity levels.

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    3. Hello Cwyn,

      No doubt we are in for some interesting and I like to think educational times concerning tea storage for all categories of age tea. The number of tea collections popping up throughout the world and tender loving care associated with many will open up a wonderful range of teas as well as prove very educational on identifying the best methods and climate for tea storage. It is very exciting to see so many tea enthusiasts (esp. in the last decade or so) take up the challenge of storing their own teas whereas in the past it was mainly tea companies doing the storage.

      Best, VP

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  2. As far as eurotium cristatum bloom, the tea serves as a substrate. In older tea, the sugars that feed the bloom when conditions are right may already have been used up by microorganisms in the past.

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    1. Hello Tiger,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Ahh, the wonders of age and transformation.

      Best, VP

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