2013 Tian Jian (天尖, Tiān Jiān, "Heaven Points") - Anhua Hei Cha from Hunan is processed in different styles according to the grade of tea used. While the lower, twiggier grades are pressed into bricks, such as Fu Zhuan, or pillars, such as Shi Liang Cha, the highest grade is aged loose in a bamboo basket. Called Tiān Jiān 天尖 ("Heaven Points"), it represents the earliest Spring pluck of the Anhua tea harvest and the highest plucking standard; by definition, it can contain no more than 8% stem by mass. Compared with the pressed grades, Tiān Jiān has a smoother, darker taste and is more dense in character. The liquor is a dark reddish-brown, and the profile is more similar to Shu Pu'er than Fu Zhuan or Hei Zhuan.
We acquire our 2013 Tiān Jiān by the basket. Each basket weighs 1kg and contains about 900g of tea. Although the tea is aged loose, it ends up forming a sort of chunky cake in the shape of the basket, as well as taking on some of the bamboo fragrance of the basket itself. This 2013 Tiān Jiān comes from the Xiang Lu Shan Hei Cha Factory in Anhua, which has been owned by the same family since the 1970s. Because their traditional customer base in Xinjiang and Gansu are Muslim, they hold a hold a halal certification for their tea. These handpacked baskets are an extant example of a centuries-old tradition. The basket-aging process produces an earthy and woody hei cha that combines the darkness of a wet-aged Pu'er with the wet-lumber notes characteristic of Anhua teas.