Now, since there is snow and cold, I figured it was the perfect time to break out the really rare and hard to find terroir, Russia! Specifically What-Cha's Russia Large Leaf Dagomys Tea Estate Black Tea, What-Cha has become my go to place for finding the more rare and unusual growing regions, and Russia was pretty high on the list. Among tea drinkers that go all 'gotta catch em all' on tea growing regions, Russia has a bit of infamy because we know that tea is grown there, but they are ridiculously stubborn about exporting it, and considering they are the most northern growing region in the world, I think I can see why! In my usual fashion I went hunting information on the Dagomys Tea Estate before writing this and...well, it took me some hunting around, but I got some lovely info from their website (oddly searching for the estate will only get you tons of trip advisor sites, one of those linked me to the website, so that was interesting.) I shall paraphrase for you: The estate was founded in 1939, though the first attempt to grow tea in Sochi was 1878, though it took several attempts to really get things going because winters can be very harsh. And speaking of climate, thanks to the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains, this counts as a subtropical region, looking at photos it is hard to believe that it is the most northern growing region, it looks so lush, just goes to show how fascinating air currents can be. I suggest giving the website a visit, the translation can be a bit bonkers at time, but it is a really fascinating read, I could go on and on about the plantation, but you are really here to see how the tea was. Let me start off by saying it smells really good! Honestly I was expecting something heavy and very brisk (Russian Caravan you have colored my thoughts on tea!) but it is super rich and fairly sweet. The spindly leaves are a blend of malt, raisins, plums, and molasses with a very tiny hint of smoke at the finish. Like someone made a dessert of raisins, molasses, and plums and cooked it over a wood stove, I swear it smells delicious, it is not just my excitement at trying a rare tea that is shining through!
I admit, I have never been more sad at not owning a Samovar than I am now, I love brewing tea in the manner traditional to the culture it was grown in (except Kenyan teas I guess since I tend to want to stuff them in my gaiwans) I have always wanted one, they are such pretty things. The aroma of the brewed teas is intense, it is so sweet and rich, I am drooling a little, there are notes of raisins, molasses, cooked plums, and a finish of both malt and a hint of syrup. It has like almost all my favorite notes that show up in black tea, I should also note that Ben came over and sniffed it and immediately asked me for a cup, great lover of black teas that he is. The liquid is a wee bit milder, but still just as sweet with notes of cooked plums and raisins, this time it is joined by some roasted peanuts and a touch of yams. The finish is a distinct molasses note that lingers in my nose for a bit, it smells pretty epic.
Moment of truth time, will all my waiting for a Russian tea pay off? Will Ben who is anxiously waiting for a cup like it? Well I have to wait for it to cool a bit so I don't burn my taste buds off first. Now that the tea has cooled to a suitable temperature, I can say I am surprised! After such a rich and sweet tea I was expecting the taste to be much the same, but it is malty, brisk and heavy at first, exactly what I expect from a Russian tea. After the initial briskness it goes into a rich molasses and cooked plum explosion, really I feel like I just ate a spoonful of molasses. For all that this tea is brisk and rich, it is also very smooth, there is no bitterness or dryness at all, though at the very end there is a hint of smoke which was neat. Hilariously I thought it was rich and intense and Ben thought it was a bit mild but liked its taste, but he takes his teas at incredible strength that I at times find undrinkable, a real manly approach to tea. I am so happy I got to try this tea, and given the opportunity I would definitely drink it again, and buy it again, the rarity makes it super special and the taste makes it very enjoyable.
Also, until the 9th, What-Cha is having a sale on their black teas, use BLACK25 for 25% off.