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Black Tea: From Historical Necessity to Daily Pleasure.

21 February 2014

at 8:51 by Seb

Dégustation thés noirs

Thanks to the wide ranging popularity that this family of tea has experienced over the last three centuries there are few people who have never tasted black tea. Imported from China in the early 17th century, the British soon introduced the beverage into their diet for its virtues and obvious daily benefits. The late afternoon break when tea was served with milk, sugar and a snack enabled the population to withstand the harsh working conditions required by the industrial revolution.

From one revolution to another, the one we make around the sun, brings, each year, a season where the weather encourages us to seek rich and invigorating beverages. While some terroirs are well known, others, more discreet, offer black teas that will also enhance your mornings or your return from winter outings. Here are some tantalizing ideas!

oxydation

The long smothered oxidation method, used on the carefully selected, fine leaves and buds of Chinese Black teas creates rich and sweet liquors, with surprising velvety textures. Their aromas of resinous wood, cocoa or peanut mingle with more delicate fragrances of rose or blackcurrant. While some are sweet and refined, others have more rustic notes of wood fire or leather. Follow the development and diversification of these teas which are increasingly popular in China.

Though the modern mechanization of tea from British know-how has flooded the market with blends and classic brands, why not indulge in the experience of a single garden tea. From Assam to Nilgiri, Sri Lanka, Kenya, discover the malty and woody flavors of these full bodied teas with accents of spices or dried fruits. Accessible and versatile, with or without milk, they will rekindle your sparkle in this icy season!

With its different harvests, the Darjeeling region provides balanced and complex liquors with a wide range of flavors, from nuances of springtime, vegetal and floral, to the comforting character of the summer and autumn productions with notes of hard wood tree bark and caramel. Sophisticated and tasty, these liquors have vanquished the world under the name of champagnes of black teas!

The more adventurous will be delighted with the full and sweet liquor of Nadeshiko, a recent innovation from Japan. Taiwan can also impress us with its famous Sun Moon Lake with vegetal and minty notes, or, from the east coast, Hualien Fengmi with intense floral and honeyed fragrances.

Let yourself be charmed by the rich diversity of black teas and accompany all your friendly gatherings with the simple pleasures of the communal teapot!

LaKyrsiew: Elegant Finesse from the Lost Hills of Meghalaya

4 February 2014

at 8:50 by Seb

meg
Almost two hundred years ago, before India was cultivating tea, the East India Company sent agents around the sub-continent to identify ideal locations for this new project.

The forest-covered hills of the relatively unknown State of Meghalaya to the South of Assam were one of the regions found to have perfect conditions.  However due to its isolation and lack of inhabitants for labour, plans for the region were abandoned for fear that it would be too costly compared to the high yielding region of neighbouring Assam.  At that time plans were abandoned and the land was left wild.

meg2

Two centuries later in 2000, these old plans were discovered and revived. LaKyrsiew Tea Garden was planted using Darjeeling cultivars such as AV2, T78 and B312 to take advantage of North facing slopes that rise between 1000m and 1300m above the plains.  Virgin scrub and woodland were cleared thus the soil is rich with nutrients that heavily cultivated estates cannot match.  Organic cultivation practices were observed from the beginning. Care was taken with the contouring to protect the valuable topsoil from the run off of the region’s heavy monsoon rains.  The fields of the garden are watered from a spring deep in the jungles on the steepest part of the estate’s land that yields clean, sweet water all year round.

The LaKyrsiew team set up the project for high quality, from their fine plucking through the Darjeeling style hard wither and high fire.  The garden has its own private factory with many well-considered details such as their fancy brass rolling table.

Due to a relatively late prune in February/March their First Flush begins late April or early May.

Exclusive to Camellia Sinensis in North America, LaKyrsiew’s teas have are made in extremely limited quantities. In 2012 the garden produced less than 500kg, less than many Assam gardens produce on a good day!

The combination of premium soil, plant selection and obsessive attention to detail have produced this exquisite tea with a very original flavour profile.  Consistency will be a big challenge in future years I look forward to visiting LaKyrsiew this Spring whilst in India and following this fascinating story.

“The LaKyrsiew of Meghalaya is an exceptional black tea: unexpected ‘completeness’ and finesse-solid structure and definition – light, ethereal delivery… ” Kevin

 
 

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