After reading Henrietta Lovell’s book “Infused: Adventures In Tea“, which tells the tale of her Rare Tea Company, this tea, a product of the Satemwa estate in Malawi, became a no questions asked must have.
Whilst reading the book I twigged on that I’d already sampled one of the other teas from the Satemwa estate, namely their shou Pu-erh. Back then I said that one day in the future I’d love to get my hands on the other teas produced by the estate, and so when I was ordering the White Antlers I bought four more, as you do.
This is how Rare Tea Co. describe the tea…
“Rather than being made from the leaves of the tea bush, this incredibly rare tea is made from the velvety stem of finely plucked spring shoots. These antlers wonderfully express the unique terroir of this extraordinary tea garden. Only a few kilos can be produced each year.
Antlers also express the farm’s wonderful obsession with quality and innovation. Just like a vineyard, the tea garden produces tea from several fields. We buy our antlers from just one field that is reserved exclusively for Rare Tea.”
Sounds good to me.
The 20 grams of tea in my order kind of pushed me towards the decision to opt for Western style infusion. I’d rather have more sessions with a smaller yield rather than relatively few gong-fu sessions, feeling that this would give me more chance to get to know the tea better. This approach was also more in line with the way I prefer to steep other stem teas.
The dried stems had both fruity and floral characteristics, but it was hard to put my finger on exactly what I was reminded of.
|Water Used:||Filtered tap water|
|Weight of dry leaf:||3 grams|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml glass teapot|
|No. & duration:||4 infusions of 2, 3, 4, and 5 minutes duration|
Once the stems had been given a few minutes in the warmed up pot those aromas had intensified, but were still as ambiguous.
Before taking my first sip of the first infusion I had a good sniff of the warmed up stems. Now I was picking up an almost incense like aroma, that also had me thinking of sandalwood oil, more specifically the interior of Swedish store Indiska, purveyor of clothes, furniture, and other assorted nice stuff made on the Indian subcontinent.
The first infusion was a genuine flavour sensation. As well as the aforementioned aromas, the thick and milky liquor was giving me crystallized tropical fruits, papaya or mango, something in that vein. It wasn’t all sweet stuff, though – there was an astringent nip hiding in the background.
The second round saw the aromatic, woody notes become more dominant, and the astringent nip grow a few more teeth and become a bite.
Things started to slip a bit with the third steeping, but I wasn’t prepared to give up on these stems yet, and so went for a fourth infusion. Perfectly drinkable, but all I was left with was the sweet wood, and a faint echo of the fruit and flowers. I reluctantly called an end to the session.
This was the first of the teas from Rare Tea Company I got to grips with, and even though my expectations were high, it didn’t disappoint. If anything, it’s got me utterly stoked about sampling the others.
This tea has most certainly elbowed its way onto my “specials” list. I’ve got 5, 6 at a push, sessions left with it, and I’m going to ration them carefully. It’s definitely going on another list too, the “buy this again” one.