The Ming Dynasty (1368- 1644) saw many new developments in tea processing, including Oolong Tea, Flower-scented Tea and Red Tea. Later, during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), many of the teas developed during this first age of innovation were evolved further. There is considerable controversy over when the 'first' Red Tea appears. It is not so important whether Red Tea originated with Wuyi Cliff Tea ("Congou Black Tea" in the West) in the 16th Century, Xiao Zhong (Souchong Black Tea) in Fujian around 1730, Qimen Red Teas in the 1700's or the later Gong Fu Hong (Red) Cha (Tea) from Anhui in the late 1800's. Ultimately, the 'first' Red Tea was not particularly popular during its early years. In the 1800's, the export markets in Europe, the American colonies and the Middle East exploded. Perhaps this is due to Red Tea's shelf stability or perhaps due to the compatibility of the bold flavor profiles of Red Teas with the cuisines of Germany, England, France and other nations where Red/ Black Tea became the default tea type. This popularity led to the large-scale production of Red/Black tea in colonial territories in India, Sri Lanka and Kenya. The lack of processing knowledge and the replacement of traditional handmade aspects of tea production with machines produced a bitter, lower-quality, uniform tea. To compensate for the poor production, use of milk, sugar and honey became commonplace.
Thankfully, in recent years we have seen a resurgence of interest in handmade, traditional Red Tea in Taiwan and China. Living Tea seeks out seed-grown, hand-processed Red Tea with beautifully shaped leaves and infusions that are best savored without any additives. We recommend letting the leaves open gradually with many short infusions, savoring the tea patience and inner spirit rather than gulping a single steeping. Generally, Red Tea is known for its robust "fully-oxidized" flavor profile, strong pervasive Qi, mild sweetness and "awakening" quality. We recommend brewing it directly in a bowl or side-handle pot with water just shy of a rolling boil.