The wonderful folks at Arbor Teas were generous enough to send me another round of samples. I apologize to them for the late reviews. It is difficult for me to find time and sit down for a long while with a tea anymore. This saddens me, but it must be so. School will take one far.
This is only about the 4th, single estate Vietnamese tea I have had the privilege to spend quality time with. I enjoy different regions and the characteristics that they present.
This is a tea from the Nam Lanh tea estate. I know nothing of estates in Vietnam, so if this means anything to you readers, be kind enough to inform a novice if you so desire.
The dry leaf has malty qualities up front, but inhale deeper and one will find rose, caramel and oak. It is interesting to find even the slightest hint of a floral smell coming off of these heavily oxidized leaves.
Another surprising thing about this tea is the quality of the dry leaf. By looking at it, I would say it is comprised of about 30-40% tea buds, which in my book is fairly high.
I would not have thought that Vietnam was yet producing such high quality (perhaps orthodox) teas.
Coming off of the top of the steaming cup are hints of dark chocolate (cocoa), vanilla and black currants.
Again, the tea throws me a surprise. The fruity aspect is quite enjoyable and leaves me wanting a taste of the supposed sweet liquor.
Wheat and barley are the first tastes to strike my ready palate. As the liquid sits, the malty astringency is felt.
On the exit; black currants dominate.
The liquor is quite sweet and absent of bitterness.
Now mind you, I did say that the tea revealed astringency, but not bitterness. People oft confuse these two descriptors.
From the taste and look of the leaves, I would say that this tea is made mostly from the assamica cultivar.
The sinensis cultivar would not have contained the malty, wheat-like taste.
This tea did solve a mystery for me in the end.
A while back, a trip to France encouraged me to purchase some "French Breakfast" tea.
This tea resembled the taste of that very tea, and for the longest time, I could not figure out where the malty chocolate taste of the "French Breakfast" came from. I can almost guarantee that it was a Vietnamese tea that comprised the base for the blend.
This would make sense, due to the French colonization of Vietnam (1887-1954).
So many conclusions in one single cup.
Just another magical aspect of the tea leaf.