Fourth in this round of that practical approach to reading tea leaves. Before steeping, these leaves tell of the process they endured once plucked from the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis). After steeping, they reveal their true nature more fully. There is such variety in the leaves from one to another.
Here are tales from a few black teas I’ve tried:
Breakfast Blend No. 2 — A blend of tea leaf brethren: high-grown Kenyan, Ceylon, and 2nd Flush Assam. They traveled from their tea garden homes to some processing factory where they were joined together in a lovely blend. The piece size is “broken leaf” and certainly looks machine harvested and processed. The reddish color of the leaves after steeping reflects the reddish-brown color of the liquid and tells of the oxygen working on those leaves and preparing them to steep up a lovely malty yet not overly tannic flavor.
Czar Nicolas Russian Caravan — That smoky Lapsang Souchong flavored from those pine fires used to dry them and a malty Assam that was processed in a more orthodox manner tell of a long tradition of bringing these two very different teas together, one from China and one from India. Larger piece sizes than Breakfast Blend No. 2 above, in part because they start with larger leaves. Again, a reddish tint to the leaves after steeping.
Three teas from the Yunnan province in southern China:
#1 Red Dragon Pearl — The dry tea comes in hand-rolled balls about the size of a chickpea (per the vendor’s site) and unfurls nicely during the steeping. The rolled up “pearls” tell of skilled fingers but don’t show you what the leaves are like. After steeping, however, you can see the tender two leaves and a bud combo, which tells of skillful plucking of those leaves from their mother tea bush.
#2 Yunnan Gold Downy Pekoe — Unlike Red Dragon Pearl, the leaves are not rolled in pearl shapes but look more like tiny snails. Like that member of fauna, these members of flora are curled is a graceful arc that keeps their flavors safe until the water pries them open.
#3 Hong Jing Luo — Similar to Golden Yunnan with a rich, sweet flavor. The name roughly translates to “golden, downy feathers” because the golden leaves and buds are loosely rolled into small coils shaped like tiny, delicate feathers. Seeing that two-leaf-and-bud combo shows that careful journey through the tea fields by skilled pluckers who knew which leaves were at just the right stage. Sorters made doubly sure that only the best leaves were passed along for processing.
The tales that tea leaves tell! Next time, we’ll see the wonders of Darjeeling teas.
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