My previous experiences with Georgian tea left me wanting more, so when I was putting together an order with perennial favourites House of Tea recently I took the opportunity to throw a couple of new-to-me teas from that country into my virtual shopping cart.
As the name suggests these leaves originate from Etseri in Georgia, and were hand plucked from 80-100 year old wild arbor trees.
House of Tea’s notes inform us that the tea is produced by a family concern, part of the return of small scale, craft tea production recently seen in several parts of Georgia.
This has been a tricky tea to figure out. An initial gong-fu type session left me feeling that this way of steeping the tea wasn’t really letting it show off its best characteristics.
That inaugural run used a leaf/water ratio of 6 grams/200 ml pot, with water at 95°C. The dry leaf hadn’t given much away, except for a faint hint of raisins and summer rain on granite.
Once it had been in the warmed up pot for a few seconds and been given a gentle shake I managed to pick up a mixture of fresh out of the oven raisin biscuits set on a background of nose tingling spiciness.
Although those brewing parameters yielded 7 infusions, it felt as though the early ones were a bit lacking somehow. Granted, halfway through the session things really picked up, with the liquor showing a lovely translucent colour and boasting a nice oily mouthfeel, but the tail end of the session was dangerously close to “meh” territory.
In that mid-session sweetspot there was plenty going on to be fair – the raisin like fruitiness was joined by a kind of lychee like sweetness set against an Assam-esque crispness, and there was a sweet mineral and burnt sugar aroma left in the empty cup. The problem was that all the good stuff was packed into two very nice rounds, and that they were bookended by an intro and an outro that were uncomfortably close to bland.
The conclusion I came to after that session was that maybe this was one of those teas that despite its appearance and my own expectations simply prefers a Western approach.
Working on that assumption I dropped the leaf/water ratio down to 3 grams / 200 ml and went for longer infusion times based on House of Tea’s recommended brewing parameters – 1½, 2, and 4 minutes.
What a difference! That first Western style infusion was like the “Greatest Hits” version of the whole of the gong-fu session. Everything was there, right off the bat. The slightly longer second round saw only a relatively small drop in flavour intensity, and even that third, 4 minute long infusion stood up on its own merits rather than feeling like something one had done just for the sake of extracting as much utility from the leaves as possible.
Simply put I found that this is just one of those teas that seems to work better when steeped Western style. Your own personal mileage, of course, may vary.
This brewing method seemed to condense down all the best qualities that eventually came out to play during the gaiwan based session into a more compact form factor. Comparing the results of the two styles left me feeling that the early and later rounds in the gong-fu session had almost squandered what the tea had been capable of giving.
At a guess that will be by design rather than accident – the producers of this very nice tea no doubt know their target audience very well indeed, and have crafted a tea that they probably never expected to end up in a gaiwan.
Nothing wrong with that of course. Sometimes I’m simply in the mood for a shorter, ultra-casual Western style session with a good quality set of leaves rather than a protracted gong-fu affair.
Very nice indeed. Recommended.