Tuesday, June 11, 2013

World Tea Expo: World Origin Tasting Tour Part 1, the morning

Friday of the World Tea Expo we attended the World Origin Tasting Tour as part of the New Business Boot Camp. The set up was very well done from a logistics stand point. They set it up so that there were two rooms. We would be in one room tasting one countries teas, as they set up the other for the next country. When we finished tasting a country, we would have a short break, then move to the other room. The staff of volunteers did an excellent job of keeping things moving. Over the course of the day, I calculate they brewed between 500 and 600 pots of tea. With each pot of tea, they also brought out both dry and wet leaves, in properly labeled containers, so you could see/smell them. They provided alternately banana pieces or bland crackers to help clear the palate. I might suggest for the future to also provide water, but I've done wine tastings, so knew to bring my own.

They provided notebooks and a great little passport book listing all the teas by country that we would be tasting, with space for notes for each. A neat bit in the passports was that next to each tea was an annotation for how much tea per 18 oz. water to use, how long to steep each tea, and the proper temperature water to use for each tea. Each country had an expert to guide us, and the whole thing was MC'd by Jane Pettigrew.

Logistically, this was a very well run event. They kept things moving, got tea delivered in a timely manner, kept everyone supplied with cups, and generally kept things informative and fun. The individual experts were all enthusiastic about their country's products, and were informative and lively.

The first country we visited was China. This was appropriate, since China is the birthplace of tea cultivation. The presenter for China was Austin Hodge of Seven Cups. We tasted six teas from China, the most of any country. Our first tea was a Silver Needle white tea. My notes say it was a golden yellow color, grassy, mildly smoky, with a vegetable taste reminiscent of cooked broccoli stem. The spouse's notes call it a particularly flavorful white tea with a spinachy smell and a sharp flavor. She notes it should pair well with rich savory foods. Our second tea was an Anji Bai Cha green tea. My notes say it was a very pale yellow, with a strong smell of asparagus on the nose, a mildly sweet attack, and bitter finish with a hint of lilac. The spouse's notes call it slightly floral, with an asparagus smell and taste, lightly sweet(lilac) on the finish. She feels it would pair nicely with foods rich in umami, like mushrooms or braised beef. The third Chinese tea was a Golden Guan Yin oolong. My notes say it was a light golden yellow with a light vegetable nose, a floral attack with notes of rose, and a mild finish. The spouse's notes say it had a mildly sharp attack, with a lightly floral finish. She thinks it would work best with more subtly flavored savory foods. Our fourth Chinese tea was a Zheng Yan Da Hong Po oolong. My  notes say it had a reddish orange amber color, with a fruity nose with a smoky under note.  It had a mildly fruity attack, a smoky middle, and a bitter finish, The spouse found it to have a light vegetable(green) nose with an astringent, bold flavor with a toasted effect.. She felt it would match well with either savory or sweet foods. The penultimate Chinese tea was a Snow Mountain Sheng Puerh. I found it to be a pale orange amber in color, with a smoky nose with notes of tobacco, and a smoky attack with a bitter green finish reminiscent of kale. The spouse found it to have a smoky nose, with a kale like bitterness on the finish.. Our last Chinese tea was a Gong Fu Dian Hong black tea. This was the one reasonably priced Chinese tea we tasted. I found it to be a dark red amber color, with a minimal nose with a hint of smoke. I called it a solid, not complex tea, with a mildly bitter finish. The spouse called it a standard tea flavor stronger than Lipton, with a sweet finish.

Our second country was Sri Lanka, and the presenter was Royce Van Twest of QTrade Teas &  Herbs. Our first tea was a Super Pekoe black tea. My notes call it a red amber color with a mildly mineral nose, a lightly fruity attack, not complex middle, and a mildly bitter finish. The spouse found it to have a very slightly vegetable nose, mildly astringent with a clean finish, but leaving an astringency in the back of the throat. Our second tea was a Idulgashinna Green Orange Pekoe 1. I found it to be a pale greenish gold color, with a vegetable nose with notes of asparagus, a mildly vegetable taste with no bitterness on the finish. The spouse found it to have a mild flavor with a neutral astringent finish. She suggests it would pair best with delicate flavors. Our third tea from Sri Lanka was a Kirkoswald Silver Needle white tea. It was a pale yellow gold color. I found it to have a sweet floral nose, with notes of violets, a mildly vegetable attack with notes of celery, and a clean finish. The spouse found it to have a pleasant aroma with a very floral nose and a smooth violet flavor. She suggests pairing it with light flavors. Our last tea was a Low Country black tea. It had a red amber color. I found it to be robust, not complex, with a clean finish with very little bitterness. The spouse notes it to have a  mild nose with nothing distinctive, and to be robust. She notes it should pair with anything.

From Sri Lanka we moved on to Kenya. The presenter here was Sara Holby of Ajiri Teas. The presentation here was significantly different than the others. First, the focus of the presentation was the company,  not the teas. Ajiri Tea is a not for profit, whose main goal is employment of women, and uses any profits towards the education of local children. The passport section for Kenya is the only one with out brewing instructions. Also, this is the only country whose teas were produced by the Cut Tear Curl (CTC) method, which is a machine harvesting and production method.  This results in lower labor costs, but also less precision in the quality control of the tea. The first tea was a Momul black tea. I found it to be medium orange amber, with artichoke notes on the nose, a light attack, bright flavor, and a clean finish with a hint of berry. The spouse notes it as artichoke with more pungency, with a bit of bitterness in the back of the throat, and would pair well with sweet scones. The second tea was a Gacharage black tea. I note it as a dark orange amber color, light asparagus nose, with a stronger attack and a mildly bitter finish. The spouse notes an artichoke nose, and more flavor than the Momul. The last was a Nyansiongo black tea. I found it to be a medium orange amber, with a mild asparagus nose, light attack, and mild finish. The spouse also noted a hint of asparagus on the nose.

Our last country before lunch was India. The presenter here was Devan Shah of International Tea Importers. Our first tea was a Malty Assam black tea from the Mangalam Estate. I found it to be a light orange amber in color, with a mild nose, a light attack with a light malt middle with a moderately tannic finish with notes of leather. The spouse found it to have a light flavor, a little malty, with a hint of artichoke on the finish. She found it a bit rough, and felt it would be best with milk and sugar. The second Indian tea was an organic First Flush Darjeeling DJ-1 black tea from Risheehat. I found it to be a light orange gold color, with a strong artichoke nose, light clean attack, floral middle with notes of rose and lavender, and a mildly tannic finish. The spouse found it have a clean attack with a lightly floral and spicy middle with a hint of lavender. The third tea was a Second Flush Darjeeling Muscatel black tea from Singbulli. I found it to be an orange amber color reminiscent of an aged scotch. I found it to have a lemon grassy nose, with a  light clean attack, a bright floral middle with notes of violet, and a moderately tannic finish. The spouse found it to have a light lemon grass scent, with an astringent attack, and a kale like flavor. She felt it would pair well with a fatty dessert like a shortbread, to help cut the fat. The last tea before lunch was  a High Grown Nilgiri black tea from the Tigerhill Estate. I found it to be a medium orange amber color, with a floral lilac nose, a moderate attack, notes of chocolate and menthol in the middle, and a lightly tannic, lingering finish. The spouse found it lightly astringent, the least tannic of the Indian teas, pleasant to sip. She notes it would make a very good ice tea.

From here we went to a very nice lunch, where I got to have a very pleasant extended chat with Jane Pettigrew. As this has gotten long, I will make another post discussing the afternoon session.

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