Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ll try to make a come back here.
As usual, I’ll ramble a bit before getting to the actual review:
I was walking around the farmer’s market yesterday, scrounging up a breakfast in free samples, when I came across a Teagre stand. I really stopped by because it was hot out, and they had iced samples… in any case, I was a bit turned off from their teas, because it seemed like it was all just flavored hibbity-jibbity (not sure where that word just came from), but then I noticed a selection of African teas, like this one. I started up a conversation with the very lovely woman working the stand, and we started talking about tea – she actually knew her stuff pretty well, and we share similar tastes, which was a pleasant surprise – and she told me about the her tea business, and that she’s opening up a shop in the area this summer. Very exciting for me.
As I’ve interpreted it, she’s taking a different approach to tea than most of the bigger tea corporations. It’s not so much about providing a cultural tea experience, or being flashy and forerunner is tea pop-culture like Teavana, though it does dip a bit into both those realms, but it’s more focused on doing business Fair-Trade. Which is why here I have a Kenyan Oolong.
In any case, I’ll skip the rest of the boring detail, and get on to the tea.
The leaf itself is CTC, which I usually don’t go for in oolongs – I’m a whole-leaf kind of guy for sure. But, this being a tea from Africa, where they’re still finding their footing in the world of tea, and producing almost exclusively teas for blending, I can’t really complain, ya know? The leaves, before and after infusion, smelled a bit like Darjeeling, but, as I’ve talked about the origins of tea, it doesn’t quite hold the same “Champagne” quality.
So, I tested it out through three infusions. A consistent, very rich amber liquor – my second brew seemed a bit paler, but that’s because I used a shorter infusion – and the flavor… wasn’t so consistent. Granted, I didn’t really use many controls in this experience. My steep times were (roughly) 30sec, 25sec, and 30sec respectively, and I only heated the water once, so the temperature was a bit lower for each brew.
So, first infusion: Rather strong, and I could tell right off the bat this was a darker oolong, near black – of course, Victoria, the business owner, told me this when I was looking at it. It had a strong kick, and I remember reading somewhere that teas in Africa usually are generally from the Assamica Sinensis (for those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s the Assamese version of the tea plant, much broader leaves, which is why Assamese teas have such a kick), so I’m going to assume it’s going to be that type. Once I got used to the strength (a little bit stronger even, because I think I burned it), I found it not unpleasant. MUCH different from the mountain peak teas you’ll find in Taiwan, and tasted more black than oolong, but still had that hint of oolonginess. Interesting.
Second infusion: Yeah, the kick died down a bit after I brewed it a second time. That’s not to say it didn’t lose drinkability, though. It was a bit weaker – notably because of a lower temp and steep time – but different flavors came out. Reiterating previous points, it doesn’t have the same evolution of taste that a Taiwanese or Chinese oolong maintains through the infusions. This one had more of a splayed outcome of tastes, but… not bad. Honestly, I liked it. Makes it more of an interesting drinking experience.
Third infusion, again a different taste – hard to explain. Very mild, and getting near the verge of losing flavor, so that’s where I stopped. I think the second infusion had a better temp, but I hit the right steep time with this one.
So, in total, not a waste of my seven dollars.
She’s opening shop in June, potentially, so expect to hear a lot more from me about Teagre in the future.