Whilst she was out and about in Lübeck Mrs. Teaist messaged me, asking that if she should find herself in the vicinity of Tee Gschwendner, was there anything on their website that took my fancy?
I had a quick look, and this tea stood out amongst the others there. A white tea from Southern India sounded very interesting, plenty to compare and contrast in terms of cultivar and terroir, etc.
On a side note, they also had a New Zealand Oolong that I tagged as a potential purchase, but Mrs. Teaist had already scored for some earlier at Lübecker Teekontor.
Although the information on the packaging didn’t explicitly say as much, a bit of detective work on the Tee Gschwendner website and elsewhere on the web leads me to believe that this tea is a product of the Havakul Tea Estate.
This tea garden is located in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India, and comprises 400 acres situated at between 1000 to 2500 metres above sea level.
This was a tricky one to pin down.
I had a couple of gong-fu sessions with it (5 grams in a 150 ml glass teapot, water at 80°C), which yielded less than satisfactory results.
All the way through that session I had the feeling that there was plenty of the good stuff packed into the leaves, but that I was having to work extra hard to tease it out, and not being entirely successful at it.
Eventually I decided to have a go at steeping the tea Western style, more or less using the suggested brewing parameters on the packaging, namely just over a gram of tea per dl of vessel size, starting with a 2 minute first infusion. The one major alteration I made was to bump up the water temperature from the suggested 70°C to 80°C. I used my trusty 400 ml Ikea pot, which translated to a tad over 5 grams of dry leaf.
This method of infusion really suited the tea better. It coaxed out a much fuller body, a significantly deeper colour, and a whole new palette of tastes.
The liquor had a delicious mix of fruitiness which suggested plums, and a sweet floral note that reminded me of sweet-peas. These two tastes were layered upon a base that was very reminiscent of the kind of subtle, dry, flinty, astringency you might expect from an Assam or a Ceylon tea, but it was complimentary rather than being antagonistic or dominant.
I even picked up a mild but noticeable Qi buzz.
Despite the packaging giving no hints as to further rounds, I tried out a second, 4 minute steeping, which resulted in a nice enough, very drinkable liquor, but that was clearly the limit of these leaves.
In my experience it doesn’t really work to try and gong-fu Indian teas, and despite how closely these leaves resemble a Chinese white tea such as a Bai Mu Dan I have to come to the conclusion that they belong in a larger pot.
Summing up, then – this tea has an interesting mix of characteristics – the fruitiness and flowery characteristics of a Bai Mu Dan on an Assam or Ceylon base. It was rather like a state of the art 21st. Century storey being built upon an old Tudor period timber framed house’s ground floor. Odd, but it just worked, somehow.
It’s an interesting mix, and literally begs for some follow-up research to be done regarding the precise nature of the terroir of the tea garden, as well as exactly which cultivar was used in the tea’s production.
Watch this space, etc.