Thursday, January 15, 2015

What-Cha, Assam 2nd Flush 2014 STGFOP-1 Black Tea

What-Cha Description:
The perfect black tea to wake you up in the morning with a full malty taste and great aroma.

Assam Tea is world famous for the strong malty character of its black teas, however high quality loose leaf tea from Assam is virtually unheard of. The reason for this is the distinct lack of investment into tea in the Assam region which has meant tea producers have lacked the knowledge and tools required to produce good quality loose leaf tea. Recently founded Heritage Tea, have sought to redress these problems by providing by setting up a modern factory for tea processing combined with the knowledge and expertise of Rajen Baruah, who has been a professional tea planter for the past 30 years. The end result is great quality loose leaf tea, the likes of which have not been found in Assam previously.

Sample provided by What-Cha: Tea Redefined

My Review:
Buckle up kiddies, we are about rocket into morning wake up tea. I admit to having little exposure to Assam teas. This is from poor exposure in my early grocery store tea bag days. Assam was just boring and tasted like tea. The monotonous single note of cheap CTC tea underwhelmed me.

I have since experienced a scant few better quality Assams. Enough to know my original perceptions were incorrect. What-Cha has so far provided top notch leaf from many of the less well known areas of the tea growing world. I think it is past due to have a go at a well known tea type and see how it will fare.

The first thing I notice when breaking the seal, is the rich malty scent. Yeah, there is a touch of something fruity as well, but malt! I very much approve of what is coming out of the bag.

A scoop of leaf is removed and it is full of color and definitely not CTC. The twisted leaf is dark and shows lots of cinnamon and tippy tan throughout. Very nice.

I used the green machine ceramic teapot with water heated to 95C (194F). The steep was two minutes. I used abt 3g of leaf (1/3 of the 10g sample) and 10 ounces of water.

The result is a bright shiny orange brew. Very clear. Thinking back to my tea bag days, I was expecting a hazy much darker brew. It is really hard for me to capture just how bright this cup is, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

The wet leaf has exploded in size. What I am seeing is large broken pieces of cinnamon and olive leaf. I pity the teaball that tries to contain this leaf.

The aroma is malt, malt, and more malt. Deliciously wow. There is probably some fruit notes as well, but, malt!

The sip is as nice as the aroma. As you fill your mouth, the nose picks up the malt. Yes, there is also a fruitiness mixed in for your enjoyment.

Really though, what most stands out to me is how smooth textured this is, with pretty much no bitterness or bite. It is somewhat drying but nowhere near the level I have experienced with lesser decimated CTC leaf. Maybe I should stop using that description but it is my reference point, my home. It is what I have known Assam to be, and now it isn't.

Another reference point that appears to need adjusting, is that I am drinking this on an empty stomach, without distress. Next to Diet Coke, Assam was always the biggest offender of stomach burn. I have added no sweetener or milk and feel no need for either. For those of you who have only experienced better quality Assam leaf, you will have trouble grasping just how awesome that really is to me.

Will a black tea go a second steep? Let's find out. I steeped this cup for 4 minutes. The color is only slightly lighter than the first. The aroma is lighter as well.

The taste is a little different. It is not as malty, though there is some present. It leans a little more stone fruit with an earthiness. Not because it needed it but more just to see, I added sweetener. Since I have mostly eliminated additives recently, I find it too sweet now. So my sugar addiction is almost broken and this must be naturally sweet on its own - something I am not yet recognizing since getting the Splenda monkey off my back. To counter the sweetness, I added a splash of milk. It smoothed the cup out well enough. I'm just not sure I liked it. I preferred this tea straight without additions.

If you have never experienced an Assam, or have avoided them like the plague, this is a good one to give a try. If you are an Assam lover already, I think you will be equally impressed.

You can find What-Cha, Assam 2nd Flush 2014 STGFOP-1 Black Tea here.

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