Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Shan Valley: Black Tea, A Tea Review

Joy! Celebration! Happiness! I am feeling better today, so much so that I left the bedroom and went back to my beloved tea lair. I am definitely on the recovery and I am so happy about it, I can even taste the nuanced layers in an oolong tea! I am not quite up to doing a tasting since my nose is still pretty stuffed, but I am so glad that I can taste things again that I don't mind waiting. Luckily I have plenty of notes for just such an occasion.

Today's tea is another of Shan Valley's samples, the Black Tea to be precise! This CTC (crush tear curl, a  method for processing Black Tea. For all the information you could want on this method of processing, I present this Wikipedia article for your knowledge hunting needs) is made from Black tea from Myanmar, as with the previous Shan Valley tea there are no steeping instructions so I winged it, steeping at 212 degrees for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. The aroma of the tea is quite rich and invigorating, blending strong sweet malty notes with rich nuttiness. It reminds me a bit of the aroma of a strongly nutty coffee, or even one of those fancy coffee tea blends that I have tried once or twice. There is a finishing aroma of roasted peanuts. The aroma of this tea certainly wakes up your nose.

The brewed tea leaves have a both earthy and malty aroma with a finishing sharpness. The sharpness reminds me of strong Kenyan CTC tea, there is a touch of sweetness at the finish. The liquid is bright and malty (and quite a lovely color) with a sweet creamy, almost fruity quality to the aroma.
No, Hermes, you cannot have my tea, you are made out of chalk.
Tasting time, I am sure this is going to give me a wakeup zing of caffeine, which is good since I was drinking this first thing in the morning. The first thing I notice is how smooth the tea is, it has a tiny bit of bitterness that gives it a bold quality and slight dryness. I have found that CTC teas are really hit or miss with me, actually a lot of them are a miss, usually I find them too abrasive, not necessarily too bitter, but too strong and lacking all subtlety. Usually these teas end up being drowned with cream and sugar because I don't enjoy them straight. This tea, however, is on the end of the CTC spectrum that I enjoy! The taste is a blend of nuttiness, rich earthy notes, and a sweet finish of fruit. Out of curiosity I added a touch of cream and sugar and it was great, the perfect example of a breakfast tea. It retains its bold strength and rich nutty flavor, the cream adds a level of smoothness that compliments the already smooth tea, and the sugar highlights the fruity finish. If you are looking for a bold tea for breakfast, or want to make the switch from coffee to tea, I recommend this tea. I also recommend this tea for people who are making the transition from generic bagged black (think Lipton and its ilk) to a loose tea, who want a more transitional tea rather than jumping right in to the SFGTFOP Assam or Golden Yunnan type teas.

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