A most unusual hand processed tea with soft tannins and slight malt with hints of toffee.
Georgian teas have become somewhat of a morning tradition for me. Ever since I first ordered the old Discover Georgia set from What-Cha back in May, I knew this tiny country made some really special teas.
To paraphrase What-Cha (and give you a brief history lesson), Georgia was part of the Soviet Union until 1991, and most of the tea produced there was shipped directly to Russia. However, the tea fields were kept unprotected, so Georgian workers would take tea leaves back to their home towns and process them manually themselves. This resulted in each village having their own unique methods to hand-making tea, which have been preserved over time and are still used today. This tea is made by Natela Gujabidze of Nagobilevi village.
Dry leaves - The long twisted leaves are a deep, rich brown with a few golden tips mixed in, quite similar to what you'd expect from an Assam or Ceylon tea. The aroma is what sets Georgia apart from the rest of the tea world: brisk malt, minerality, and just a hint of smoke and citrus. The Georgian terroir is (unsurprisingly) quite similar to Russia's, but both are extremely unique compared to any other place in the world.
Brewing parameters - 200F, 4 minutes. Yes, 4 minutes. It gives me a serious twitch, but it works very well with Georgian teas. I have yet to try this tea gong fu style, and I truly have no idea if it would perform well that way or not.
Tasting notes - Malt, toffee, tannic, caramel, stonefruit, mineral
Oh this is a nice one. Even by Georgian standards, this is a nice one. It starts off a smooth malty brew with hints of a slightly smoky toffee, then gradually transitions into a sweet caramel taste, and finally ends by shifting back to the toffee-ness with just a touch of ripe stonefruit at the very end. Many other Georgian teas match the taste and aroma fairly closely, but this one is something entirely different. The taste is nothing like what you expect from the aroma of the dry leaves.
I added 30 seconds onto the second steep time, and was greeted with a much mellower soup this time around. The caramel and toffee are still there, but have begun to hide behind the maltiness, which is now joined by a slight minerality and smokiness. It's a bit more like a typical Georgian tea now, which certainly isn't a bad thing, but it's a bit disappointing that the wonderful flavors of the first brew mellowed out so much. Sometime I'll try this with shorter steep times and see how it holds up.
I highly recommend this tea to everyone. If you want to really explore what Georgia has to offer, do yourself a favor and grab the Discover Georgia set so you can compare notes between all the different teas. There are still a couple I haven't tried yet, but I have no doubt that they are all excellent.
You can buy this tea from What-Cha here: http://what-cha.com/black-tea/georgia-natelas-gold-standard-black-tea/