PS: These posts portray the opinions of the author. Strong they may be, always be aware “to each their own.” If you want to do things ‘wrong,’ do it wrong. Happy steeping!
The Secret of FuZhuan
What is the Character of Fuzhuan?
His appearance is rather masculine, square face, thick, and he looks quite condensed.
He is not bitter or astringent no matter how you treat him.
He is not smokey or earthy, exciting nor stimulating yet, soothing like soft water washing over your chest; gentle like hands of the beloved.
He doesn’t have a substantial aftertaste but he is a great companion while you are alone at home, reading, watching a movie or hosting friends, and you can drink him in from spring to winter, sunrise to moonlight.
He is called Fuzhuan Tea or Fu Brick Tea 茯砖茶.
‘Fu’ means ‘dog days’, [like the dog days of summer], it is also the name of a fungus that grows on the root of pine trees; ‘Zhuan’ means brick or block, so that ‘Fuzhuan’ means Dog Days Brick (because the tea is manufactured in the hottest summer days) or Fungal Brick.
Fuzhuan is one kind of Dark Teas from Anhua, Hunan in China. It is harvested in Anhua Hunan, then traditionally transferred to Jingyang Shanxi to process because of the difficulties and complexity of the production.
However, more recently the Anhua people have discovered how to produce Fuzhuan in their own way and today’s Fuzhuan is mostly from Anhua, Hunan.
Fuzhuan was a tea not drunk by either the producers nor locals at first.
It was majorly exported to Tibet, Mongolia, and XinJiang (Uygurs); these are vast regions of deserts and mountains. Fuzhuan is the tea the inhabitants of these regions cannot live a day without. Tea is predominantly where their vitamins and minerals come from as well as being their medicine tea to digest their unbalanced meals. It is said that they would rather go without food for a day, but not tea.
However, Fuzhuan has now become more and more popular all over China, as well as outside of China, because of its mystery component – the Golden Flower.
What makes Fuzhuan so special?
Historically, Fuzhuan was known as a mystery tea, especially on the Silk Road because of its Golden Flower.
Japanese scientists extract the Golden Flower from Fuzhuan as a supplement, and the sales price of the Golden Flower supplement is higher than gold.
Golden Flower 金花 (Eurotium cristatum 冠突散囊菌)
Eurotium cristatum is dominant in the yellow fungi called ‘Golden Flower’ during Fuzhuan manufacturing. Fuzhuan is the only tea that grows eurotium cristatum, which is what gives the unique flavor only Fuzhuan has.
Golden Flower is one kind of probiotic — during the fermentation, Golden Flower transforms tea starch to sugar / polysaccharide and oxidized polyphenols, so that it reduces the astringency, bitterness, and grassiness of the tea. It makes the tea taste smooth, mellow and sweet, so that the more Golden Flower the tea has, the better quality the tea is.
Golden Flower sometimes appears more in newer teas because it is cultivated from the manufacturing process. It also grows during the aging process, and it could appear less and becomes whiter in color depending on the condition of aging and the length of aging time. Golden Flower visually disappears and appears as a cycle which is a normal phenomenon of the aging process.
The processing of Fuzhuan is very complex and requires the longest processing cycle. Culturing Golden Flower is the most difficult and important part of the process. It needs about 15 days to culture, and it continuously develops during the aging process — basically, from the processing to the moment you drink it, the tea naturally ferments and eurotium cristatum naturally cultivates.
How to make Fuzhuan grow more Golden Flower is a big subject in the dark tea industry right now. Many professors, scientists, and producers are studying how to provide a better condition for Golden Flower to develop, and they have discovered that hand compressed Fuzhuan is easier for the Golden Flower to grow than machine compressed. Since the hand compressed tea is not as tight as the machine, there will be more space and moisture for the fungus to grow and propagate. That’s why Fuzhuan also requires the right amount of stems in the tea; the shape of the stem gives more space for the tea to breathe. In addition, the stem contains high levels of amino acids, protein, fiber, tea polysaccharides and other nutrients. The stem also contains sugar, so it can add more sweetness and mellowness to the taste.
The Spiritual Reflection of Fuzhuan
As a Tea Student and a Tea Master, I have tried hundreds of kinds of teas, and different types of teas come to my heart at different time periods of my life.
My last favorite teas were High Mountain Taiwan Oolong, Wuyi Mountain Oolong, Phoenix Dancong and very aged Raw Puer. In the past a few years, my preference changed simply to Hunan Dark Tea, mostly Fuzhuan.
Before drinking Fuzhuan, I was in the state of waiting, longing, discovering, suffering.
Now, my mind is at peace, my heart is in love, I am no longer looking or searching for anything. I am home.
As if the sensation of Fuzhuan gives a feeling of home.
We all have experienced that at different ages we like to read different books or watch different movies. This is the same with tea, which means the choice of Fuzhuan is the confirmation of my state.
Fuzhuan has a perfect balance of Yin and Yang, it is the taste of being home, which means when our heart desires peace, the harmony in Fuzhuan will also help to ease our body and mind and relax in the moment.
That said, when our heart is at ease, Fuzhuan tastes like the ease of the heart, and the type of tea our heart desires reflects the stages of our life — our spirit.
How to Enjoy Fuzhuan?
At the beginning of my journey to knowing Fuzhuan, I was amazed by the taste difference between one part of the tea with more Golden Flower and the other part of the tea that has less Golden Flower, even though they are all from the same brick of tea.
The more Golden Flower the tea has, the better quality the tea is, and the Golden Flower grows from both production and the aging process; Golden Flower comes and goes, appearing more or less as a circle.
So, if you would like to share a good piece of Fuzhuan with your guests, I would like to recommend you choose the part that has more Golden Flower.
Fuzhuan is a tea that is very easy to enjoy and brew.
It is particularly great for rainy days, winter days, early mornings, late evenings, or any situation in which you wish to have good balance.
You can brew it in a teapot / gaiwan of any material; ceramic, clay, iron or glass.
Brew it with boiling water, the steep timing is according to the size of your brewing implement, the quantity of tea leaves you use, as well as your personal preference of taste.
However, if the tea is steeped too long, (the steeping time doesn’t bring any bitterness to the taste, but it could be too strong), you can add some hot water to balance the taste. It is also great to add some milk or honey. With honey and milk the tea will is more like a holiday celebration.
You will find more and more small boutique tea shops carrying this special tea in small quantity, so if you find a good Fuzhuan you like, don’t hesitate, because when you change your mind, it may too late!
I am lucky to have a private collection of refined Fuzhuan from my hometown, and at our Tea Ceremony, it is such a luxury that sometimes we just taste different Fuzhuans to compare the difference from different ages, different tea mountains, and different aging environments.
Fuzhuan is a tea from my hometown, and though I discovered it last, today it is the tea I drink the most.
I hope Fuzhuan will meet your heart one day.