Today, I picked up from my local delivery office my first order from What-Cha, because when my long-suffering postman tried to deliver the box on the 30th December, I was nominally on holiday, standing on a beach on the island of Anglesey, buffeted by storm ‘Frank’, looking soulfully out to sea and wondering if I could swim back to civilisation if I really put my back into it.
Along with my order, which was packaged in a box upon which What-Cha had affixed a stamp issued on June 16th 1971 depicting ‘Ulster 1971 paintings’ (specifically, on my box, ‘A Mountain Road’ by Terence Philip Flanagan) and a couple of Wallace and Gromit stamps, there was a handwritten note in the box from Alistair, and a couple of extra samples that he thought I might like to try.
I have never met Alistair, nor did I even know his name until the handwritten note arrived, but from this point forth he shall show up in my imagination as a Sherlock Holmesian figure who turned for comfort to exotic teas in times of great stress and deduction, instead of the heady soup of the opium poppy.
I was in need of black tea, and I wanted it brisk and malty. I regretted, briefly, my decision to end my electronic shopping trip at four countries, and wished I’d added a little Assam to my order. But I wiped away a solitary tear and pulled myself together, and brewed up a nice strong pot of Burma Shan CTC Black Tea, because as good fortune would have it, What-Cha’s very own description of this is ‘Brisk and Malty’.
CTC black tea leaves are by no means a match made in heaven for a Yixing teapot; not even one that is reserved exclusively for black teas. These CTC leaves are as tiny as grains of sand, and with the addition of very hot water they conspired to construct a small but sturdy wall against the inside of the spout, so that my precious tea trickled out rather than poured.
But again I swatted impatiently at the tears that sprang unbidden to my eyes, and pulled myself together.
This tea is outstanding. The leaves, dry or wet, have a scent that’s a little bit reminiscent of puerh – I think it’s the scent of pure tea that in puerh becomes concentrated, but I catch it unexpectedly in every tea at odd moments – and beneath that, a malty, coppery, sharp black tea-scent. The liquid is a dark and welcoming red-black, and the taste is intense, and nothing short of divine – the fine promised briskness is arresting, but the tea is also strangely honey-smooth and without the mouth-puckering drying quality that often accompanies this level of briskness.
It’s also a surprisingly long-lasting tea – I was sure that with leaves cut so small, and with the liquor being so very strong and delicious from the very first steep, this tea would be good for only one or two steeps – but I’m already on my fifth steep, and a couple of the notes have become particularly strong in this cup – a gorgeous woody undertone, and sweet woodsmoke. It’s a warm and complex tea that’s evolving beautifully with each infusion.
Heart-wrenchingly, I think this tea is sold now by What-Cha only as part of the Burma Discovery collection, and I am unable to purchase a stash of it from them.
I swipe at a tear or two, pull myself together, and trek onwards to What-Cha’s Malawi.
Flavors: Malt, Smoke, Tea, Wood