Saturday, March 24, 2012

Black Tea Showdown

from left to right: a Darjeeling, a Nilgiri, and a Ceylon

On a dreary Saturday morning, I could not think of a better way to usher in the day than to have an impromptu tea tasting.  So with E as my co-conspirator, we proceeded to have a black tea showdown.

Two of the teas featured were gifts from friends (thanks, GR, for the Darjeeling, to S for the Ceylon).  The third was a Nilgiri -unsolicited loot I received in the mail from a tea company.

I brewed all three teas at the same temperature (around boiling point) and for the same duration (3 minutes).  The resultant colors of the liquors were surprisingly distinctive when viewed side by side.

The Darjeeling, a Second Flush (harvested in early summer) called Margaret's Hope, brewed up a rich copper liquor, had a fruity aroma, and a full-bodied taste.  I half-wanted to curtail the tea tasting there and then to make some masala chai for us, as drinking Darjeeling tea often had the effect of transporting me to the streets of Mumbai, being offered a pewter cup of chai from a chaiwallah...

Pulling myself from the reverie long enough to proceed onward, I came next to the Nilgiri, a black tea grown in the "Blue Mountains" of southern India.  This cup brewed up a russet brown liquor, had a piquant aroma that was difficult to characterize ( tropically fruity?), and flavors that were even more unique.  I had never tasted anything like it- the liquor on my palate was an amalgam of stone fruits and tropical flowers (what I would imagine the latter to taste like if I'd ever venture to eat tropical flowers).  However, the end result was a tea that was too cloying for my taste.

Next up, a Ceylon tea from the highlands of Dimbula, the most famous of Sri Lanka's tea growing regions.  This cup brewed up a red brown liquor, had the aroma very familiar to me from childhood -that emanating from a steaming cup of Lipton tea- which was not surprising as Sir Thomas Lipton, an entrepreneurial Scotsman, profited handsomely from Ceylon teas in the early part of the 1900s.  The flavors of the tea were bracing and pleasantly astringent -much more satisfying than those from the bagged Lipton tea of my childhood.

Happily invigorated from the tea tasting, I vowed not to wait for another foggy day before having a showdown of teas.



G. Rudner said...

Nice road test. Was in Vancouver, B.C. last week for a meeting, where the weather consisted of rain/snow for almost the entire week. Would love to have had a good brew.

cha sen said...

Would love to have shared it with you.

L. Blogspeak, M.D. said...

Reading Cha Sen's tea showdown makes me deeply regret that I have never taken to drinking tea.

cha sen said...

It's not too late, L. Perhaps that oolong will convert you:-)

Karen said...

Great tea cupping! I enjoyed reading your reviews of the teas.

cha sen said...

Thanks, Karen!