Sometimes, in the world of tea, it’s easy to become too focused on one particular area of interest, to lose sight of the bigger picture, to miss, if you will, the wood for the tea trees.
Imagine my surprise, then, when for Christmas I received some Portuguese tea. I had no idea whatsoever that tea was produced in Portugal, but here it was.
Included in the package was a free, 10 gram sample, the subject of this post. The tea in question is Pipachá, an Oolong, but one with an imaginative twist.
Chá Camélia have the following to say about Pipachá…
“Our passion for tea and wine is reflected in our Pipachá. Niepoort port wine is often matured for decades in wooden pipes, which take on some of the characteristics of the port. We have selected a semi-oxidized organic Oolong tea with its complex flavours of dried fruits and its delicate tannins, and stored it in some of these pipes, such that, over time, the tea will absorb some of the port wine flavours. A tea that opens up new tasting dimensions.”
The dry leaf didn’t have a lot to say for itself, but after a few seconds in the warmed up pot it started chattering away about sweet and sour cherries, and cacao nibs.
Water Used: Filtered tap water
Weight of dry leaf: 7 grams
Steeping vessel: 200 ml ceramic teapot
Water temperature: 95°C
No. & duration: 7 infusions of 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 60, and 90 seconds
The initial infusion produced a liquor with a remarkable taste – it was, quite simply, my mother’s Christmas cake in a cup! The first sip opened up the floodgates, and memory after memory came pouring out, the whole cake making ceremony which took place in early November just after my dad’s birthday – the long lost aromas of dried fruit soaking in rum, baking, and a boozy laden atmosphere that seemed to impregnate the wallpaper and soft furnishings, and hang around for weeks after. All of that was condensed into my teacup, and experiencing that in the gap between Christmas and New Year, just as I had done as a kid, was almost overwhelming.
There was a strange kind of bitterness in the cup, too, but not your usual, run-of-the-mill sort of tea bitterness, but one that was, well, “shinier“, if that makes sense. I may be out cycling as we say hereabouts, but perhaps it’s something that comes from the wooden pipes the tea was stored in. Speaking of those pipes, I’d love to know which wood was used, and based on the little I know about aged wines and spirits I’d guess it might be oak.
Anyway, the liquor was proving itself to be utterly delicious, and was leaving a sweet lingering taste of raisins on my palate.
The second round saw the liquor morph into a real luscious lip sticker, and the previously rather muted dark chocolate note raise its voice. Unusually for me, I started to experience a real upper body sweat, something that is normally only triggered by sheng drinking. I was finding a fair bit of dust and debris in my tea strainer, something that I’m guessing was mostly down to this being a smallish sample that had been bumped around in its baggie a good deal before being plonked down onto my tea table.
Somewhere around the mid point in the session I really started to notice the fragrance left in the empty cup, that old, familiar, playground chalks on hot granite thing.
The intensity of the flavours in the cup started to fade from the 5th infusion, and two rounds later we were done, with the last taste sensations out the door being heady, heavy wine and dark chocolate. Seven good steepings seemed fair enough, and I felt as though I’d had the best the leaves could have given.
Chá Camélia have started out with a sound foundation, and thanks to some clever storage have built upon it in such a way as to turn it into something a bit special. I don’t know what I was expecting before I began this session, but this wasn’t it. What I found was something rather exciting and totally different, a complex, genre warping tea that marches to its own beat and sings its own song.
My one tiny criticism of the tea would be that it would be nice to know a little more about the Oolong on which Pipachá is based.
There aren’t many samples that have had such an impact on me over the years as this one did. It’s in good company, to be sure.
I might just have to fork out for a full sized cargo of these leaves later on this year.
Very nice stuff indeed. Highly recommended.