Santikhiri Bai Yai Green is an interesting green tea that is produced from Camellia sinensis var. assamica, although this particular strain is native to northern Thailand. This tea comes from around Santikhiri village (formerly Mae Salong) that is located around the highlands of Doi Mae Salong mountain close to the borders with Burma and Laos. Santikhiri Bai Yai Green tea is grown at an altitude of around 1,200-1,600 metres and was plucked in August 2016.
Locally known as ‘Bai Yai’ or ‘Large Leaf’ this strain of tea plant has been growing wild around this part of Thailand for centuries. In fact, there are local wild tea plants just like this one around many parts of Southeast Asia, the particular strain differing from one locality to the next. While a lot of wild trees are still found around this area of Thailand, this Santikhiri Bai Yai Green tea is harvested from plants that are cultivated at a tea garden in Doi Mae Salong.
This area of Thailand is part of the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia, the largest producer of opium from the 1950s well into the 1990s. Following eradication campaigns that started in Thailand in the 1980s, the production of opium has vastly decreased in this particular part of the Golden Triangle. It has been particularly effective in Thailand, where tea was recognised as one of the sustainable commercial crops to replace opium poppy growing. This was in a way appropriate as many of the original immigrants to northern Thailand’s poppy fields came from Yunnan in China. With a long history of tea growing, it was easier for these Yunnanese immigrants to switch from growing opium poppies to once again growing a sustainable tea crop.
While many tea cultivars now grown in Thailand have been imported from Taiwan, the local native strain has been preserved, in some part thanks to the Yunnanese immigrants that came with the intent of growing poppies, yet stayed on to grow tea. After all there is more similarity between this native Thailand strain of assamica and the strains of the tea plant that are found in Yunnan. So the centuries old traditions of tea growing and processing from Yunnan found a new place in northern Thailand.
Santikhiri Bai Yai Green has quite large leaves (hence the local name for it) that are dark, almost mossy green in colour. The aroma of this tea is quite nutty, specifically reminiscent of almonds. When brewed, the light coloured liquor has a sweet nutty and almost creamy aroma. The taste is very clean and fresh, with sweet, creamy and nutty flavours. There is slight tartness on the aftertaste that balances the flavour quite well. This green tea particularly makes us think of sugared almonds and freshly baked sweet pastries!
For this Santikhiri Bai Yai Green tea we suggest brewing parameters of 80°C for 1-2 minutes according to your taste, brewing around 3 times.
This Santikhiri Bai Yai Green tea was first featured in our February 2017 Curious Tea Subscription Boxes.