Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What-Cha: Malawi Satemwa Antlers White Tea, A Tea Review

My mother and I did one of our patented 'things' today, we re-arranged the house. We have this compulsion to re-arrange our stuff every month or so on the quest for perfection (see also: control, order, chi flow) and organization. See we both have more stuff than our current space can really hold, and since we do not want to get rid of it, we go to Tetris levels of efficient stacking and sorting, that way it is organized and accessible. My mom and I, well, we are very silly, but at least with have fun with our obsessions.

And speaking of obsessions, it is time for What-Cha Wednesday! I recently placed an order and received a bunch of samples along with the teas I ordered, so What-Cha Wednesdays will be continuing for quite a while, which is fine by me! Today's tea is Malawi Satemwa Antlers White Tea, a tea made entirely from slightly velvety (it is where the antler part of the name comes from) sticks! Other than hearing about the Satemwa Tea Estate randomly when looking at tea, I do not know much about them, which means it was time for a bit of research. The Satemwa Tea Estate, a family owned estate created in the 20s, was the first tea estate in Malawi to become fair trade certified, combine that with other certifications and some unique and experimental teas, you have yourself a fascinating tea company. And this is a fascinating tea, it is not often that you see a tea that is made entirely of the stems, even Kukicha, Japan's stem tea, does not seem as 'stick-like' as this tea. The aroma is rather rich yet subtle, with sweet notes of plum, a touch of nuts, and of course sticks. It smells like plant matter, freshly broken sticks while walking in a forest, this tea smells like nature and reminds me of walks in the forest.

I found myself at a bit of a confused point on how to brew this tea, do I do Western Style or Gongfu Style, and I decided to go with my gaiwan, simply because I wanted to use the new gaiwan I got as a birthday present. The aroma of the now soggy sticks is really sweet and fruity! There are note of lychee, fresh juicy plums, and raisins, this transitions into rich earthiness and fresh wet wood. The liquid's aroma has a real richness to it, blending fruity lychee and plums with raw honey and freshly broken leaves.

Whoa! That first steep is sweet! The mouthfeel is light on the tongue, but really well rounded, it sensation of this tea fills my mouth, much like biting into a sweet, juicy, fruit. And speaking of fruit, the fruity notes are present, there are notes of lychee and plums, it starts like fresh fruit and transitions into stewed fruits with a tiny bit of smoke at the finish. The aftertaste is one of lingering plums.

For the second steep, the aroma is still quite rich, sweet, and fruity, much like the first. The taste is much richer this time around, just like the darkening of the color, the flavor becomes more intense. There are notes of stewed stone fruit and a touch of lychees, this transitions to fresh hay and raw honey, the finish is a delicate floral and freshly broken stick note.

Third time's the charm, though this tea already had me charmed from the moment I opened the pouch, what can I say, sticks are endearing. Even though the color is darker, the aroma is lighter, there are notes of honey and plum, and that is about it. The taste is much milder, like the first and second steep, the sensation of the tea is very filling, I love the way this tea coats my mouth. There are notes of honey, fresh hay, and a nice finish of plums that linger. I find this tea fascinating and want to experiment with it, next time I go out and about I will put these sticks into my travel infuser and see how they 'long steep' and maybe I will even try cold steeping it (though we are getting to the chilly part of the year and cold drinks are not as fun) the Satemwa Estate website even recommends steeping them in sparkling water all day long in a tall champagne glass!

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