Tuesday, February 16, 2016

1960s Chong Shi Cha (aka Worm Tea)

Old Chong Shi Cha is black with a tint of grey. High quality black pearls will display good physical form and uniformity with minimum debris. The aroma is rich and sweet giving of an alluring candy like licorice fragrance.

In the world of coffee there is Kopi Luwak, for tea it is Chong Shi Cha (aka Worm Tea). The worm is in fact a type of caterpillar that consumes the tea leaves and leaves behind its valuable droppings that are harvested and processed. In parts of Yunnan Province these caterpillars are farmed (see below). On occasions they have also turned up in warehouses used for storing tea and creating an unexpected revenue for the owners albeit at a cost to the tea. Like puerh tea that improves with age, old Chong Shi Cha is highly prized and hoarded by enthusiasts who knows and appreciates the tea. Chong Shi Cha is believed to be very good for the stomach and provides a healthy tonic for those who drink it.

The harvesting of Chong Shi Cha by a grandfather and granddaughter. The lives of these caterpillars are very clean and these insects feed on nothing else but leaves. – Images captured from the documentary The Story of the Leaf (CCTV)

When brewing old Chong Shi Cha I prefer a long steep (Grandpa style) and a little can go a long way. My brewing parameters require 1g of tea to approx. 120ml hot water with 5 minutes steeping time alongside a very quick rinse (all this is adjustable to your preference). The result is a full bodied brew that carries the uniquely charming character of old Chong Shi Cha. The taste is clean on the palate with a mild sweetness and noticeable cooling effects as the liquor flows down the throat. The main taste is reminiscent of very old tea with the dark layers revealing Chinese medicine notes and black licorice that is suggestive of old style root beer. A session of old Chong Shi Cha provides a very comfortable and relaxing experience.

The dense and dark brew masks the soft and smooth nature of the tea.

See more teas from the Tea List

Additional Note: It is worth noting that a genuine old Chong Shi Cha is a rare tea and commands a high price. There are many fakes and buyers need to beware. The true test of an age tea will always be in the resulting brew that the tea can offer. Be wary of a Chong Shi Cha brew that presents chemical smells or that may give off repulsive notes of mud, sourness or rotting sulfur that will literally transport your experience towards the more horrid meaning of S _ _ _!

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