Doi Wawee Shu Tuo Cha is a dark tea produced from plantation grown assamica trees in the remote Doi Wawee community in Chiang Rai Province of northern Thailand. It was harvested in 2015, made in a ripe (shu) style of Chinese dark tea and compressed into individual mini tuos weighing around 6-8g each. The tea was then aged locally in Thailand, before being purchased by a small European wholesaler in 2020, who then stored it in France. We acquired this tea in early 2022 and it’s been in our storage in London since then.
Areas in the north of Thailand were settled by Chinese nationalist troops in 1950’s who discovered plenty of ancient tea trees growing wild in the region. These trees historically have been harvested by the local ethnic minorities and hill tribes. The tea leaves were mostly used as food in order to make miang, a fermented tea leaf dish. Upon establishment in the area, the first focus of Chinese settlers however was on growing opium, a highly profitable crop. This area of Thailand formed part of the Golden Triangle, which became one of the biggest producers of opium. Since the 1980’s local Thai efforts to stop opium production have resulted in farmers switching to more sustainable crops – for the ethnic Chinese settlers tea was an obvious choice.
The settlers brought along with them not only Yunnanese and Chinese cultures which can be seen in villages like Santikhiri (Mae Salong) but also tea making techniques and style. This was further helped by establishment of new tea plantations, often with cultivars and technology imported from Taiwan. But locally, many still utilise the wild growing tea plants found in the jungles and forests. Some tea plantations are specifically planted with large leaf assamica plants rather than imported Taiwanese cultivars since they are more suited for dark tea production.
Plenty of tea production in Thailand and neighbouring Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam is destined for the Chinese tea market. Often it is just the raw material that is sold, which is then processed in China and sold as Chinese dark tea. So it is a little more unusual to find local manufacturers of dark tea in these countries that focus on finishing the whole production cycle. This Doi Wawee Shu Tuo Cha dark tea was made in a classic mini domed shape that is popular for convenience of carrying around and brewing.
Doi Wawee Shu Tuo Cha comes in small individual serve tuos wrapped in generic wrappers. The size of them makes them perfect for a single gaiwan or pot. These are not too tightly pressed together so come apart and brew reasonably quickly, especially if you prefer to rinse your tea in the first instance. Like many mini tuo cha teas, these are formed of smaller, more broken leaf. This shu-style dark tea from Doi Wawee produces a very dark liquor with a woody aroma of walnuts. The woody flavour is smooth with notes of mossy wood and walnuts. This leads to a lasting aftertaste that is mineral, nutty and a little spicy. If you are a fan of shu pu-erh tuos from Yunnan, you will find this Thai version quite agreeable.
We suggest brewing at 95°C for 2-3 minutes according to your taste, brewing multiple times. Just like with Chinese dark tea, it is best suited for gongfu brewing.