Satemwa Zomba Pearls is a lovely and rare white tea from the Shire Highlands of Malawi that is completely handmade. The large leaves are picked and rolled by hand into large pearls that resemble cocoons. It produces a complex flavour with fruity notes and a creamy mouthfeel. As the leaves unfurl slowly, this tea can stand many repeated infusions. We source Satemwa Zomba Pearls white tea directly from Satemwa Tea Estate. The current batch is from the September 2020 harvest.
Malawi is the second largest tea producing region of Africa after Kenya. Most of it, however, does end up destined for the tea bag industry of the UK and South Africa, being grown on large plantations owned by big multinational corporations. The Satemwa Tea Estate by contrast is family owned and operated. It was founded in 1923 and has stayed in the same family since inception. They have very strong social and environmental responsibility programmes that provide a fair wage to their workers and support to the local communities.
While also producing CTC teas for tea bags and similar applications, Satemwa Tea Estate are also pioneering high end orthodox tea production. For this they are utilising and experimenting with various cultivars found in Malawi, fusing the local plants and terroir with production methods and ideas they collated from visiting tea estates and farmers in other countries. Thanks to these innovative methods, their selection now encapsulates a whole range of teas: unique whites, unusual greens processed using Japanese production methods, oolongs, orthodox blacks as well as dark tea! The current range of their premium white teas includes some rare handmade tea, of which this Satemwa Zomba Pearls white tea is a fine example.
This Satemwa Zomba Pearls white tea comes in loosely rolled pearls that resemble cocoons in shape. The pearls are made from hand picked neat top leaves of the plants. When brewed the pearls unfurl, slowly releasing their flavours with each infusion. This tea is particularly smooth when brewed at around 80°C. The complex flavour starts with more sweet, creamy and fruity notes. This progresses to savoury hints and herbaceous, dry hay and lightly woody notes. It has a wonderfully soft, creamy mouthfeel throughout with the flavours still staying more on the fruity side. The light aftertaste has a tangy note and a fresh feel. This is an excellent and highly unusual white tea – it is a real ‘must try’!
The pearls are best brewed at 80°C for around 2-4 minutes according to your taste. As the tea unfurls slowly, you can brew it many times over. The first few infusions can be longer to allow the pearls to start opening. Once they are opening up, you can reduce the infusion time, but increase it again when brewing the last infusions. This tea performs extremely well brewed gong fu style in a gaiwan or similar smaller vessel. If you prefer a bolder flavour, increasing the water temperature will result in a slightly more astringent infusion.
Location of Satemwa Tea Estate: