Here’s a quick look at some tea developments that may not necessarily be new but are still not in the mainstream of tea drinkers’ awareness.
Assam Green Tea
Green tea is growing in popularity here in the U.S. as well as other countries, even ones like the UK where black tea has reigned for centuries. So, it came as no surprise to find that Assam tea growers are processing some of their teas as green teas and have been for awhile (okay, so I’m a bit behind the times here). What did come as a surprise was that they were getting rave reviews.
The varietal Camellia Sinensis assamica is usually not considered suitable for green tea; it can be more astringent and bitter since it’s high in tannins, natural anti-oxidants. Green tea is unfermented, so the tannins stay in the leaves, which are immediately pan-fired or steamed to prevent oxidation and then rolled, dried and sorted. I haven’t tried any of these yet but would love to hear if you have.
Japanese Black Tea
A couple years ago, Tea Guy Bill Lengeman wrote about Japanese black tea. The tea didn’t exactly become mainstream. Recently, a tea vendor asked if I wanted to try a sample, and I readily agreed. How exciting!
Japan has attempted making black tea for quite some time, starting with the Meiji government. Black tea is still a rarity in Japan where the cultivars grown are not considered suitable for producing a strong enough tasting tea. Most of their teas are produced by smaller tea garden operations, unlike India where larger and more mechanized growers and factories can assure stable quality and pricing. Reviewers have been giving these black teas from Japan high marks, though. Can’t wait to give them a try myself.
After years of planting, tending, and nurturing, tea gardens in Hawaii are getting their products to market. But are they ready? A couple of months ago I tried some samples to see how these teas were shaping up. Well… uh… let’s just say that they were okay… sorta…
I tend to notice patterns and cycles and from them can give a fair guess of what’s coming ahead. Hawaiian teas will get a lot of hype on various tea sites. Growers will send out a bunch of samples for dedicated tea drinkers to try and write up on various review sites. Interest will be high for a little while. Then, folks will come to the conclusion I have — the teas were rushed to market ahead of their time. Well, maybe not. Other tea drinkers out there might like these teas better than I did. The green was okay but in dry form looks a lot like a Darjeeling or even something like Pai Mu Tan. The white tea I tried was virtually tasteless, unlike some fine teas I’ve tried from China and elsewhere.
Maybe it’s not a rush to market, though. Maybe it’s terroir and processing methods. Hard to say.
That’s it for this month. Will see what next month brings.
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