As discussed in the forum over on TeaTrade, I offered myself this Christmas gift - a brick of Hei Cha, or 'dark tea' - more specifically a Fu Brick (from a local purveyor called TeaSource). It's similar to Pu-Er in that it's post-fermented tea, but after learning more about it, and more importantly, after steeping and sipping the first few cups of it, it is indeed different.
The first thing that distinguishes it from the Pu-ers I've tasted before is in the dry leaf. Greens and browns. Appears almost like an oolong with oxidized edges. It also has a sweet aroma. The "moldy basement" smell (which is part of a Pu-er's appeal) isn't strong, or perhaps isn't there to be detected at all, the further I dive into the steeping. Even still, it does have an aged characteristic about it and a hay-like quality. If I didn't know it was a Fu-brick and were tasting it blindfolded, I would have trouble naming it as a black tea.
The leaves in the brick were whole and once again, rather green. A dark chameleon.
Steeped, the leaves tell yet another story and produce a dark brown, amber-colored liqueur. I used a yixing pot, boiling water, the requisite pre-rinse, and a 4-minute steep. The result was a very drinkable brew, as complex as its Pu-er counterparts, but sweeter and perhaps more approachable for those who might not enjoy the strength of other post-fermented teas. Still, it didn't have the same depth that I would expect from a 'dark tea', though I plan on giving it a few more re-steeps before I pass final judgement.
It's described as also being good for digestion and contains pro-biotic matter, but of a different type than Pu-er. I don't unfortunately have access to a microscope to investigate for myself, but I'm enjoying this as I head into the Holiday weekend, so every bit of digestive help is duly welcome.