Sunday, December 6, 2015

What-Cha's India Arunachal Pradesh Hand-Made Black Tea

What-Cha's Description
A strong tasting hand-rolled black tea with a malty taste and gentle smokey finish, perfect as a breakfast tea.

My thoughts
I'm fairly well versed in Chinese geography. Indian? Not so much. I had to look up exactly where Arunachal Pradesh was on a map. Turns out, this tea comes from the extreme northeastern edge of India, just a few hours' drive from northern Yunnan, at nearly the same latitude as Darjeeling to the west. There isn't much tea that comes from this area, so I was pretty unaware of what to expect from these leaves.

Dry leaves - They look fairly typical for an Indian black. The aroma is somewhat unusual, starting with a strong odor of malt and wood, and ending with a slight smokiness. It reminds me almost of a Russian tea, rather than something from India.

Brewing parameters - 200F, 60s first, +15s after

Tasting notes - Malt, cocoa, wood resin, cedar smoke, maple syrup

The soup brews out to a lovely dark amber color, and emits a pungent aroma of malt and smoke. Taste is quite strong for the shorter steep time, but not at all bitter. This would definitely be a good wake-up-in-the-morning tea. The maltiness takes the forefront, but quickly gets pushed aside by the woody, sappy, resinous taste and a well-defined cedar smokiness. Cocoa notes show up slightly under the rest of the flavors, but they are pretty subtle at this point.

Steeps 2 and 3 lose a lot of the woodiness and smokiness, letting the malt and cocoa take over the ride. It tastes a lot more like I'd expect from an Indian tea now, though I am somewhat disappointed that the cedar smokiness has dissipated because I rather enjoyed it. I am noticing a very slight sweetness at the end of the sip that is almost certainly a mild maple syrupy flavor. The pungent resinous taste of the first steep has mellowed out to a smooth and satisfying brew.

Steeps 4 and 5 are mostly a malty, tannic, cocoa-infused tea now. My final steep I left sit for 5 minutes and the smokiness began to show its face again, but it was much more subtle than the earlier steeps.

This is a great, strong black tea, perfect for mornings. The typical darker Indian black teas (i.e. Assam, Ceylon, and Nilgiri; Darjeeling is in its own class) have a tendency to taste very similar to each other, but this one breaks the mold with it's resinous, smoky pungency, which is more akin to something Russian than Indian. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to explore the area further.

You can buy this tea from What-Cha here:

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