A most unusual dark tea possessing a rich earthy dark chocolate aroma and taste.
This is a fun little tea. According to What-Cha, after initial processing, the leaves are placed in a special bag and left outdoors for a year, exposed to all the elements during that time. After this, the leaves are fired and processing is completed. This unique procedure sets this tea about halfway in between a black tea and a dark tea, hence the name "semi-ripe".
Dry leaves - At first glance, you'd think this was just a black tea. The leaves are various shades of dark brown to flat black and have an aroma reminiscent of a darker Yunnan black tea. The scent isn't powerful, but a subdued hint of dark chocolate is definitely present.
Brewing parameters - 212F, 15s first, +5s after. I decided to go with quick steep times rather than the full 2-3 minutes as recommended. I've been using a sort of gongfu-western hybrid technique lately that's been working really well for me.
Tasting notes - Dark chocolate, cacao, earthy, peat/humus
The hue of the broth is a beautiful dark amber color, and exudes a rich aroma of dark chocolate. I mean, this smells remarkably similar to a cup of hot cocoa. I just sat there for a minute or two just smelling the sweet-savory liquid. The taste is, unsurprisingly, quite chocolately. Dark chocolate (like the >75% cacao stuff) is certainly the dominant taste here, but there are mild notes of earthiness that come through towards the end of the sip. They're a bit hard to find under the chocolate landslide, but to me it's most like clean peat moss.
This will likely be a bit shorter review than normal as the flavor profile didn't change all that noticeably with each successive steep. Not that I'm complaining. I'll never complain about a chocolatey tea like this one. After the 7th steep, it did seem to lose a bit of it's *umph*, so for #8 I let it steep for 5 minutes. That definitely brought out the rich flavors again, and even made the subtle peaty tones a bit more prominent. I feel like steeping this tea for the full 2 minutes at first would probably amplify the earthiness right off the bat, rather than keeping it quiet like these short steeps have. Next time I make this one, I'll maybe give that a try and see if it makes a difference.
Nepal continues to produce exceptional teas. It's like they cross Darjeeling and Yunnan, and keep the best of both worlds. And if Nepali farmers continue to produce innovative processing techniques such as this one, I can only see the Nepali tea industry getting better.
You can buy this tea from What-Cha here: http://what-cha.com/dark-tea/nepal-2015-sandakphu-ruby-semi-ripe-dark-tea/