Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tea Side: Red Teas From Thailand, A Tea Review

We just had the loveliest little storm, very torrential rains and a bit of rumbling, and far too brief for my liking. Sadly this spring the storms have been really weak, granted the last two years were a little bonkers with the constant storming, but still! Storms are my favorite part of this time of year and the main reason I like living in Kansas City. But, my time here might be growing short, in a little under a year Ben and I need to move and we are debating heading north, I miss real winters and boreal forests...and maybe we will live in Madison near his family (who also escaped to find more winter and water!)No matter where I move it will be a headache though with my teaware and really heavy antique desk.

Today I am going to look at a trio of teas from Thailand, courtesy of Tea Side! Sadly only one of the teas is on their website, but I am sure if you gave them an email you could get the ones I am writing about. I am going to start with Red Tea #1, not in the store so I know nothing about it, so this tea's story is going to come from sensory feedback, the leaves have a great rugged appearance, big and curly with a smattering of golden trichomes. The aroma of the leaves is resinous and woody, notes of maple, myrrh, sandalwood, and apple wood blend with a touch of cocoa and a malty finish. It is not very sweet, brisker and woody with a bit of depth from the resinous notes. The aroma once steeped is very aromatic, strong notes of myrrh and sandalwood, camphor and various woods, and a finish of malt, chocolate, and molasses. It is a triple threat of brisk, woody, and rich! The liquid has a creamy sweet quality with strong resinous and woody notes that linger in my nose for a while.

First off, I apologize for the level of messy my tea tray is in this photos, sometimes you don't realize how badly it needs scrubbing until the flash photography is used. I was expecting for a tea that smells so brisk, the mouthfeel and taste would also be brisk, but no! It is mellow, surprisingly so, flavorful but smooth in texture. The notes drift between velvety dark chocolate, stewed cherries, myrrh, baked sweet potatoes, a bit of a rye bread note, and a finish of malt. The tea does not have a whole ton of longevity, puttering out after four steeps, but those steeps are immensely flavorful and smooth, never a hint of briskness. Drinking it is like sinking into a warm blanket on a cold day, I found myself wanting to nap after my session with the tea had finished.

The next red tea on our adventure is Roanji Black, I don't know anything about this tea other than it is a hongcha and it is from Thailand, mysterious mysteries! Where the previous tea smelled brisk and woody, this one smells very sweet and fruity! Notes of lychee and cherry blend with orange blossoms and chocolate for a really decadent smelling dry tea. The soggy leaves pick up a strong note of dark honey and molasses with a touch of tobacco leaves and a strong malty finish, sadly the lychee note is faint, but luckily the orange blossom note transferred entirely the liquid so that makes me happy. I love orange blossom anything.

The taste is almost identical to toasted chocolate cherry bread, with dark molasses notes and a side of walnuts. The finish has a strong lychee juiciness that lingers for a surprisingly long time, and that was just the first steep. For the second steep a nearly instantaneous explosion of orange blossoms, combined with the slippery smooth mouthfeel, this tea woke my mouth up in a good way! It has a headiness that rivals oolongs with its floral intensity, not something I run into very often with hongcha but I am not complaining at all. Luckily for me it has a decent longevity, so I was able to enjoy this tea for a while and was not too sad by the time it finally called it quits.

Lastly I am looking at the tea that is available in their shop at the moment  Red Tea #2, the only thing that the listing says about this tea is it came from old trees, more mysterious mysteries (I really need to stop saying that.) These leaves, like the Red Tea #1 look rugged and wild, I kinda love teas that look like that, not really sure why but I do. The aroma is really fun, imagine mixing sassafras and berry cobbler with a touch of apple pie and lemons and you have this tea, it is very sweet with a slight sharpness from the sassafras note and honestly, it has me craving pie something fierce. Brewing the leaves make it smell like sassafrass and fruit leather, it is so sweet! I am getting mostly plums, apples, and persimmons with pears. goji berries, and strawberries in the liquid.

Wow, this tea is smooth, like biting into a baked plum smooth, it is pretty thick too which really cements the intensely rich taste of the tea. Yes, that taste, holy crap that taste. It starts with a slight walnut and sassafrass note then more or less combusts into fruit leather, plums and persimmons do a dance on my tongue and goji berries and lychees pirouette down my throat. Middle steeps get a bit of a briskness and give a cooling sensation in my belly which I usually associate with white teas, which is fun...that is the best way to describe this tea, it is just fun!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

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