Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What-Cha, Malawi Zomba Pearls White Tea

What-Cha Description:
A unique tightly wound white tea from Malawi that produces an equally unique taste of tangy cucumber with a thick buttery texture and no trace of astringency.

A great tea for multiple brewing, with it taking in excess of six steeps for the pearls to fully unwind. Another unique tea from Malawi that must be tried.

Sourced direct from Satemwa Tea Estate in Malawi who are dedicated to pushing the boundaries of great tea production while caring for the local environment, providing their employees a fair wage and contributing to the local community.

Sample provided by What-Cha: Tea Redefined

My Review:
Today I am reviewing a white tea from Africa. Most of African tea is destined for the shredders where the dust will be poured into bags. This makes for cheap, one steep tea, and low incomes for the farmers. This tea is different.

Opening the resealable sample bag, I don't notice anything unusual about the scent. It is light and pleasantly grassy. It kind of has a green tea aroma. Scooping out a spoon of leaf convinces me, this is going to be an adventure.

The 'pearls' as What-Cha calls them look amazingly like insects. Hope that doesn't freak you out. To me they look like our 17 year locusts (Cicada). They also kind of look mummified. Around Halloween I Christened these "Zombie Pearls". As you can tell I love (LUV) the look of this dry leaf. The Mr. Spock in me keeps saying, "Fascinating", while I raise one eyebrow. Seriously who doesn't love a zombie insect mummy?

In the press with 175F water, these were steeped for 3 minutes. The directions say to use 4-5 pearls, but I use a 12oz mug instead of a cup so I used about 8. The pearls remained floating on the surface the entire time. I expected they would bubble and fall. As they soaked, and swelled some, they began to look like tent caterpillar cocoons. So, the insect theme continues. Should there be creepy music playing right now? Oh, it's almost Christmas, so never mind.
As you can see in the picture, after the first steep the pearls have barely loosened at all. They are really wound tight. The description above says in excess of 6 steeps to get them to completely unfurl. That will take me a two day session, but I intend to find out. I'll update this post when I make it that far.

The scent of the wet leaf is fresh and green. It does not make me think white tea yet. The liquor is a light yellow with green tint. Despite my need to descale my mug (just washed it and didn't notice), the tea itself is very clear and bright.

Taking my first sip kind of melts me down into my seat. Oh my, this is good. With this first mug I am not getting tangy or cucumber as mentioned on the label. What I am getting is butter, corn, and hay. There is no bitterness and no astringency is the taste, though it does seem slightly drying in the feel.

In the aftertaste there is the tiniest bit of tingle - possibly that is the tangy? The aftertaste doesn't stay long but it is smooth and pleasant.

Mug two was steeped for 3 1/2 minutes. The color and aroma are near identical to the first mug. The taste is likewise very close to the first. There is maybe a little less butter and a little more dryness. This is still a very good cup.

If you did not tell me this was a white tea, I would probably guess it was a green tea. That is not a bad thing. I definitely recommend trying a sample on your own.

You can find Malawi Zomba Pearls White Tea here.

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