Rare and Delicious!
One of our favorite things EVER is exploring the rare and little known styles of tea from around the planet, and this month, for Steepster Select, we’ve done just that. We wanted to explain exactly why these special teas are, well…so special, so we’re doing that right here. Don’t worry, there’s no test at the end, but we do invite you to study up!
And now a look at the teas…
Rare Orchid Oolong from Tea Source
Fujian, China - Made from the Qi Lan Cultivar, this rare regional oolong from Wuyi mountain is grown at over 1000 feet. The large twisted leaves hold up to many resteeps.
The Qi Lan varietal is known for its luscious mouth feel and subtle fruit aroma, reminiscent of the Phoenix Dan Cong oolongs of Guangdong. Wuyi style “rock oolongs” are typically deep roasted with heavy notes of caramelized sugar and a “baked” flavor profile. The unroasted Wuyi oolongs, like the rare orchid, are far less popular outside of China but provide an interesting chance to taste the local terroir without the added flavors of processing. The rocky terrain imbues the soil with plenty of minerals leading to a, you guessed it, mineral finish in the tea. Many of the bushes in Wuyi are wild growing and can be over 400 years old.
Silver Bud Ya Bao from Tea Source
Yunnan, China - A rare white tea plucked during winter, consisting of all buds from wild growing trees. Mellow, sweet, and with an unmistakable fruitiness.
Ya Bao translates to “Special Treasure” and is unique among all teas in general. This tea is harvested in late winter from wild growing tea bushes. The light, fluffy buds are hand picked and processed by only a few factories in China. The unique freshness of the tea is a result of such an immature bud. The nutrients and essential oils accumulated during the plant’s winter dormancy reveal themselves in the Ya Bao. Ya Bao is also unique in that it can be aged, like pu-erh, but most agree it is generally a more interesting tea when enjoyed fresh.
Hunan Dark Tea from Tea Source
Yunnan, China - This dark tea, or Hei cha, is a lesser known cousin to pu-erh that is post fermented, meaning it is fermented after it is processed. This deep and slightly smoky tea is enigmatic and continues to develop over many steeps.
Hei-cha is a form of post fermented tea in the same class as Shou Pu-erh. This is a fully oxidized tea that is considered “black” tea in China. What we think of in the West as “black” tea is actually “red” tea in China. The name comes from the color of the liquor, not the leaf. After picking and processing, Hei-cha undergoes a “wet pile fermentation”. This accelerates the deepening of flavors and is responsible for the “dank” or “wet” flavor of the tea. Southern China, primarily Yunnan, is the major producer of this tea. The Hunan Dark underwent minimal firing over hardwood at the end of processing to impart a slightly smoky finish. This tea can be steeped again and again with a remarkable range of flavors developing.
Soba Cha Deep Roast from Steepster
Nagano, Japan - Soba cha (roasted buckwheat berries) is a caffeine free tisane drank in noodle shops across Japan. With an intoxicating aroma and slightly sweet, nutty brew, this is sure to become a favorite. And it’s GLUTEN FREE!
Made from ground buckwheat, Soba is most famous in its noodle form and the noodles are a staple dish in Japan. To compliment the flavors, Soba cha tea can be served along side the steaming bowls of noodles. Soba cha is roasted over high heat for a short period of time, caramelizing some of the starch and sugar in the buckwheat berries. This, combined with its already nutty flavor profile, makes for an incredibly aromatic cup. Soba cha is also very forgiving. Boiling water and long steep times still produce a sweet, flavorful cup.
Laos Black #05 from Steepster
Phongsaly, Laos - A black teas from Laos with this quality of manufacture is almost unknown. Our dedicated producer has thrown convention out the window and began making teas that rival India and China. This rolled, jet black tea with golden buds is sure sign Laos is on it’s way.
Laos, lying on the very southern border of China, is a not a major player on the world’s tea stage. Most tea produced in Laos is Mao Cha, or crude green tea made by locals from older growth trees. In fact, Laos shares claim with Yunnan to some of the oldest tea plants still in use. In effort to up their game, a handful of producers in the region are capitalizing on Laos’ great soil, climate, and plant varietals by beginning to standardize their production methods. The local terroir is incredible as seen by its proximity to Yunnan and the skill of making tea there is increasing each season. This is one of the first “quality manufacture” black teas to make it out of Laos. The leaves are beautiful twisted and you’ll notice a consistency in not only the appearance of the tea, but in the flavor as well. Unique from the more common black teas of neighboring Yunnan, the Phongsaly Black is a regional speciality we are very proud to share with you.
We hope you enjoy drinking these rare gems as much as we enjoyed finding them for you! Please let us know what you think by logging your tasting notes on Steepster!