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Huajuan Tea (Qianliang Tea, Bailiang Tea, Shiliang Tea)

Huajuan Tea

Huajuan Tea (花卷茶) is a variation of Anhua Dark Tea. The name means “patterned roll”. It is a description of the compressed tea logs, once they have been stripped from their protecting layers. What are its major production steps, which give it its unique taste? What are the meanings of Qianliang Tea, Bailiang Tea, and Shiliang Tea, its different names? These are the questions we will be answering in this post.

Huajuan Tea, how is it made?

Like all teas belonging to the Anhua Dark Tea variety, Huajuan Tea is made with smoked leaves that undergo fermentation. The compression into tea logs, is what makes it stand out visually and gives it a an exclusive taste.

The leaves, are compressed into a log-shaped  basket, made with weaved stripes of bamboo. The inside of the basket is filled with one layer of pine bark, and another layer of big polygonum leaves. The already smoked tea leaves are then steamed and pressed into the baskets. Initially meant to facilitate transportation of the tea leaves over long journeys, without getting them wet, this also affects the leaves’ flavour. They absorb the vegetal and spicy notes of the three elements constituting the baskets.

The newly created logs, full of steamed and hot leaves, are left to dry in the open air for a period of about one month. It is during this time, that their fermentation begins. If stored correctly, this process will go on forever, allowing them to slowly mature. Unlike Tianjian Tea, Huajuan Tea is not pile-fermented and is made with fully grown leaves..

Qianliang Tea, Bailiang Tea, or Shiliang Tea?

This production method was developed as a way to carry a lot of tea on horses over long journeys. This is why Huajuan Tea is also named after the quantity of tea it contains.

The weight unit of 1 liang (两) used to be the equivalent of 37.4 grams.  Bailiang Tea (百两茶), or Hundred Liang Tea is the oldest quantity to have been produced. A log of Bailiang Tea weighs around 3.75 kilograms and measures between 60 and 70 centimeters, with a diameter of about 10 centimeters. In 1820, during the Qing Dynasty, tea logs ten times bigger were first produced: This was the birth of the Qianliang Tea (千两茶), or Thousand Liang Tea. The creation of the Shiliang Tea (十两茶), or Ten Liang Tea is more recent. This smallest version of a Huajuan Tea is made for tea lovers who wish to own a whole little log, at times when transportation is no longer a problem.

Qianliang Tea and Bailiang Tea are often sold in individual slices. Modern tea lovers have rediscovered this traditional tea. Some producers make premium Huajuan Tea to satisfy their demands. Some bricks are also produced in a similar way (not the same as Dark Brick Tea).

The picture above shows a slice and a full log of Bailiang Tea.

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