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Tea Tasting: Assam Sree Sibari Estate


Richard Kilgore
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The next Tea Tasting Discussion features an Indian black tea, an Assam Sree Sibari Estate . Bill Waddington at teasource.com is providing free 10 gram samples for three eG Society members and me. Each sample is enough to make about four cups of first infusion tea.

I thought of Tea Source for a Tea Tasting Discussion due to two stunning Indian teas I ordered last year. Here is some background information from the Teasource site:

Assam teas come from the Assam valley in northeast India along the banks of the Brahamaputra River and are prized for their heartiness and their malty flavor.

*****

Assam, Sree Sibari Estate, SFTGFOP1

This stunning tea is laced with golden tips and buds.   It has a wonderful, strong, malty aroma.   The brewed cup has a very rich, deep, and complex flavor that includes thick malty notes, sweet high tones, and a slightly spicy presence from the first sip through the aftertaste.

The tasting is open to all members who have posted at least ten (10) substantive posts in the Coffee and Tea forum, and preference will be given until midnight (EDST) Monday June 1, 2009 to those who have not yet participated in any of the three previous tastings.

As always, everyone is welcome to participate in the discussion, whether or not you receive a sample.

So, please PM me now if you would like to receive one of the the free samples and participate in the tasting and discussion.

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OK. Tea here, time available.

Visually, it is a very striking tea... looks to be mostly golden tippy tea... only other tea that was all golden was a Yunnan some years back. 2g to 200ml of water at 195F for 3 minutes makes a very cup with a very malty aroma, but with a significant woodsy undertone. Lingering smooth flavor, no hints of astringency.

As usual, I prefer to err on the side of water too cool rather than water too hot, so I may edge up the temperature on a second infusion of these leaves to see what I left in the pot.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Indeed. Second shot with hotter water increased the malty sweet aspect, but did bring nothing by way of astringency. Not a tea of spectacular flavor, but interesting in its low tannins. Maybe a result of the youth of the leaves? Are golden tippy leaves naturally lower in tannin? I recall that jasmine pearls seem to be tippy shoots, and they bring lots of tannin... but they're green and not fermented like this black tea...

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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The first thing I noticed was the golden color. I am not sure I have ever seen black tea this rich golden color. Nice malty rich aroma. Edge of fruit and spice. Made me think of Christmas pudding.

The first infusion i made with water on a rolling boil and let is sit for 5 minutes. I used a small tea pot with no cage inside, and a tea spoon of tea. and a up of water

I used about a teaspoon of milk. The most prominent taste was the malty, but that would be pretty typical of Assams. I definitely got the fruity and spicy that were present in the aroma of the un-brewed leaves. I liked the fruity high notes that almost reminded me of the kind of notes in an African coffee. The lack of astringency was noticeable, and made the tea taste kind of bland to me.

The second cup brewing I used extra tea to see if making it stronger would add some astringency; I used about a teaspoon and a half, it was much the same as the first cup but stronger. I preferred it this way. Still un-astringant.

For the third cup I had a half teaspoon which i mixed with about half Darjeeling (brook bond green label). The Darjeeling filled out the space that the lack of astringency made for me, playing well in my opinion with the spice and fruit. This tea is a wonderful mellow back ground, that seems to me to be the perfect base tea for blends.

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I must revise my previous opinion- This tea is amazing in its longevity, and gets better a few infusions in. I've gotten five delicious infusions out of 2g of leaves, each differently balanced. Woodsiness prevalent on the first two, a bit of fruitiness at 3, floral mixing in thereafter. What they say about the tips really being the concentration of flavor is totally born out by how this behaves.

For those of you doing one infusion and tossing the leaves, you're missing out on a lot.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I don't think your palate is dull, Yajna Patni. Perhaps you are using somewhat different leaf to water ratios and different brewing times for the infusions. Can you two tell us more about both?

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I think that Chris's experience brewing this Assam is a great example of how we can get very different results with a tea by playing around with the brewing parameters. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Just takes a little time to get to know a fine tea.

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Since this is such a visually striking tea, this thread is incomplete without some pretty pictures showing it off. Here are a few:

gallery_7416_6605_34204.jpg

gallery_7416_6605_59396.jpg

And for a bit of a comparison, here is a shot of the previous and now dethroned winner of the prettiest gold tea award in my experience, a Yunnan Golden Harvest... this sample is years old, and apparently has oxidised a bit, as I recall it being much prettier and golder... but you can see the golden thing still going on:

gallery_7416_6605_41224.jpg

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Hey Richard,

THe first infusion i used as said on the package, one teaspoon tea and one cup of water. This did not taste strong enough to me.

So for the second, I used one and a half teaspoons and the up of water. It might have been more than a cup,but not by much.

Unlike cdh, i prefer tea made with the hottest water. I did this like the packet said at a rolling boil. I did the second soaking at the same temp, and left it for the same 5 minutes.

It may just be my taste, i have never found a second soaking i liked. My grandmother did it, and it always tasted weaker to me. It may be just that i really like the strong robust flavors, and find the sweeter less appealing. I also am fond of the tannin, and enjoy bitter notes a lot, and i think these may be less in second infusion, what my grandma called "wetting the pot".

I did it because i was trying to find what it was that others taste. I will keep trying!

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Yajna Patni - I may be wrong, but I think you would get a different result if you hold to one rounded teaspoon for 8 ounces at a rolling boil for three minutes for the first infusion. Then try additional three minute infusions like Chris did, or try additional infusions at four minutes and then five minutes. Infusing for five minutes for the first infusion probably is extracting so much from the leaf that there is little left on your second one.

That said, this simply is not an astringent Assam. While it is a very high quality leaf, it just may not suit your taste.

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Richard that does make perfect sense. I tend to soak quite a long time. I have no more of that assam left but i do have some keemun I will try that approach on.

It also explains my Grand mothers watery second brew. The first one was well stewed having sat in the pot until it was empty.

Next time i have a good re steeping tea, i am going ot try the with a little extra tea and a little less brew time.

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When I first got the sample I brewed it at 2.5 grams per 8 ounces at 108 - 212 F, 1: 3 min., 2: 4 min, and 3: 5 min. I liked this a good deal. Could have gone another infusion at least but I stopped at three.

This morning I brewed it 2.0 grams per 8 ounces at the same temp, 1: 3 min., 2: 3'15", 3: 3'30", 4: 4 min., 5: 5'30". Except for the first two infusions it was definitely weaker than my preference would be, though still drinkable and interesting.

Next round I am going to try a higher leaf to water ratio than my first attempt and see what happens. I also ordered another Assam from Tea Source and it arrived a few days ago, so I'll also do a comparison of the two.

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Two Assams:

Left:

Panitola Estate, Whole Leaf, 2nd Flush

Right:

Sree Sibari Estate SFTGFOP1

gallery_52070_6669_48075.jpg

First brewed 3 minutes, Western style with a rounded teaspoon of leaves per cup. Water (Brita-filtered New York City) at 208F.

gallery_52070_6669_66610.jpg

Though the leaves were strikingly different in appearance, the brew color and overall flavor were very close. The Panitola was a bit heartier, though neither had the sometimes overwhelming-of-other-notes malty tendency, nor the astringent quality of inexpensive Assam.

The Sree Sibari had a particularly round feeling in the mouth, and a slight hint of apricot or peach.

It is worth noting that both teas were still pleasant when cooled into the temperature range I find difficult to enjoy -- just a bit over room temperature.

Re-steeped 5 minutes, water at 212F.

The second brewing was flavorful as well, though less so. Both teas were refined enough to enjoyably drink alone, which is not always my experience with Assams.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks to Bill Waddington at Tea Source for providing the tea samples for this Tea Tasting Discussion and to everyone for making this an interesting discussion.

Here's a link to the next Tea Tasting Discussion featuring a stunning Nilgiri from Tea Source.

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