March 2016: Kirishima Sencha, Steamed Zomba, Deep Baked GABA, Arunachal Abali

Welcome to another month of Curious Tea subscriptions! This month we have a new instalment of exciting teas for you to taste. For March 2016 we have an a delightful Kirishima Sencha green tea from Japan; an exotic Steamed Green Zomba tea from Malawi; a complex and fruity Deep Baked GABA Oolong from Taiwan and finally an unusual and smokey Indian black tea – Arunachal Abali Autumnal.

We had a great time sourcing these fantastic and rare teas to share with you and to help you along with the tasting, here is some further information on the teas featured in our March boxes.

Kirishima Sencha

Kirishima Sencha

Sencha is a very well-known green tea that comes from Japan and it is the most popular tea in Japan, accounting for around 80% of the country’s tea production. When you go to a Japanese restaurant and ask for a green tea and you will almost always be served a type of sencha!

Japanese green teas have a distinct flavour profile which is quite different to Chinese green teas. They are steamed to prevent oxidation of the leaves, which is the process that keeps it as a green tea and stops it from becoming an oolong or a black tea. After steaming, the sencha leaves will be rolled, shaped and dried. By contrast, most Chinese and other green teas are pan fried. This results in a large flavour difference between the two processing methods. Generally the green teas that are steamed are a lot grassier and more vegetal whereas the pan fried green teas are more like dried grass (hay, straw) and have a larger variety of predominant flavours.

Japanese tea growing regions

This Kirishima Sencha that we selected for our March Mixed and Light boxes comes from the foothills of Mount Kirishima in Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyūshū. It is grown at an altitude of around 400m above sea level. As Kyūshū is the most southwesterly island of the Japanese four main islands, it enjoys a rather mild climate but it can still get cold in the highlands, which are covered in snow in the winter months. The seasonality of the region requires frost hardy cultivars to be used, which tend to grow tea leaves slower, resulting in more flavoursome teas. This sencha also has a full organic certification by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

When brewed, it produces an emerald green liquor which is smooth and full with a nutty, mushroomy aroma. Its taste is sweet, grassy, lightly vegetal and buttery. It has a low astringency and there are savoury hints of nori seaweed and a mild umami flavour which lead into a long aftertaste.

This tea is best brewed at 80°C for 1-2 minutes according to your taste. It can be brewed 2+ times depending on your taste preferences. Sencha is quite a versatile tea and the flavour can be easily adapted to suit the drinker’s preferences by changing the water temperature. Lower water temperatures will result in a more mellow and sweet tasting liquor. If you prefer a stronger and more astringent green tea, you can experiment with slowly increasing the water temperature used to brew it.

You can buy Kirishima Sencha from our online shop.

Steamed Green Zomba

Steamed Green Zomba

Steamed Green Zomba is a green tea that is grown on the Satemwa Tea Estate in the Shire Highlands area of Malawi. A very unusual green tea, especially since it adopts the Japanese methods of production by using steam to stop the oxidation process.

Steamed Zomba - Southern Malawi

Malawi is the second largest tea producing region of Africa after Kenya. Most tea, however, does end up destined for the tea bag industry of the UK and South Africa and is grown on large plantations owned by the big multinational tea corporations. The Satemwa Tea Estate by contrast is family owned and operated. They have very strong social and environmental responsibility programmes that provide a fair wage to their workers and support to the local communities.

We selected this Steamed Green Zomba from the Satemwa Tea Estate for our March Light tea subscription boxes. This is a particularly smooth and mild green tea. When brewed, a fruity and sweet nose combines with a grassy character that is delicate, vegetal and slightly fruity. Minimally astringent, there are notes of spinach and grapes with a clean finish.

This tea is best brewed at 80°C for around 2-3 minutes according to your taste. This tea should be brewed multiple times (2+) depending on your taste preferences.

You can buy Steamed Green Zomba from our online shop.

Deep Baked GABA Oolong

Deep Baked GABA Oolong

To start with demystifying the acronym in the name of this tea, GABA stands for Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid. This molecule, which is mostly found in the human brain, purportedly can reduce stress and anxiety. GABA Oolong tea undergoes a complicated manufacturing process, which involves vacuum tanks and oxidation by way of exposure to nitrogen rather than oxygen. The very high GABA content is the direct result of this processing, which was developed by Japanese scientists over 20 years ago.

There are differing opinions on how well our bodies can actually absorb GABA from our food and drink and while some people report feeling particularly relaxed and calm after drinking GABA tea, others do not see any significant difference. However, from the point of view of taste, the unusual processing of GABA tea also helps bring out unique flavours, making this a very interesting and unusual tea with a distinctive taste.

Nantou County, Taiwan

This GABA Oolong, which is grown in Nantou County of Taiwan, is rather different. After the initial processing, this tea undergoes extensive baking, which is described as ‘Deep Baking’ or ‘Deep Roasting’. This type of finishing is also sometimes referred to as ‘Charcoal Roasted’ because of the unique resulting roasted charcoal flavour. The tea master employs her extensive skills to achieve a very unique flavour that is more akin to an Autumnal Darjeeling than a classic Taiwanese Oolong.

We selected this Deep Baked GABA Oolong for our March Mixed and Dark subscriptions. This tea has very tightly rolled dark brown and black leaves that are typical of oolong teas. When brewed it produces a dark umber liquor with a complex smooth, sweet and tart taste and aromas of burning log fires. A very unique cup of tea with a toasty flavour full of notes of roasted nuts and dried fruits.

This tea is best brewed at 90°C for 3-5 minutes. Brew multiples times to enjoy the developing flavours from each brew of this unique tasting tea.

You can buy Deep Baked GABA Oolong from our online shop.

Arunachal Abali Autumnal

Arunachal Abali Autumnal

Finally we have a unique smoky offering from one of the lesser known tea growing regions of India, Arunachal Pradesh. This hand-made Arunachal Abali Autumnal black tea comes from the Abali Tea Estate, located in the eastern part of the state, close to the border with China and its famous tea growing regions of Yunnan Province.

The ethnic makeup of the area where Abali Tea Estate is located mostly comprises of tribes that migrated here from China, such as the Mishmi tribe. They have brought with them tea production methods from China that still influence the styles of teas produced in Arunachal Pradesh.

Arunachal Abali Autumnal

We selected this Arunachal Abali Autumnal for our March Dark subscription boxes. It possesses dark coloured leaves and produces an amber liquor with a smoky aroma. This is a strong tea but it still sits somewhere in the gap between the very strong teas from Assam and the much lighter black teas of Yunnan. The taste is malty, earthy and stony with lingering citrus notes on the aftertaste. This tea is bound to appeal to those that like their teas with a touch of smoke!

This tea is best brewed with water at 90°C for 3-5 minutes. If you like your tea stronger and more astringent, you can increase the water temperature and brewing time.

You can buy Arunachal Abali Autumnal from our online shop.

We really hope that you enjoyed the tea club selection for March and are looking forward to what we have in store for your selections in April!

Incidentally, if you are reading this but do not subscribe to our monthly tea selections and would like to receive them in the future, you can sign up to a tea subscription in just a few clicks. We ship worldwide from the UK.

We would love to hear from you, so if you have any questions, suggestions or just want to chat about tea, email us at contact@curioustea.com, via our Facebook page or via Twitter.

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Happy tea tasting!

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