Those of you who read my reviews are well aware that I am a huge What-Cha fan and review a ton of their offerings. While I am almost always impressed by the quality and tastiness of their offerings, what gets me more about What-Cha as a vendor is their willingness to highlight rarer and more experimental teas. Alistair always seems willing to give a unique tea a chance to reach the Western audience, and I greatly appreciate that. That being said, this tea is another of What-Cha’s experimental offerings. It is a Darjeeling green tea produced from the Japanese Yabukita cultivar that has been processed similarly to a Chinese Bai Cha green tea. That’s right; this is an Indian green tea produced from a cultivar generally used in the production of sencha processed to emulate a specific type of Chinese green tea. Weird? Sure. Tasty? Actually, yes.
To be honest with all of you, I had no clue how to prepare this tea. I do not drink much sencha these days, have very little experience with/knowledge of the unique qualities of the Yabukita cultivar, and prior to trying this tea, I had never tried a Darjeeling green tea. Part of me was tempted to brew this tea similarly to a sencha, though the tea was clearly not processed in that manner. I tried gongfuing the tea at 176 F, and while the results were mostly tasty, the liquor eventually turned a little more lemony than I wanted. Ultimately, I decided to go with a low temperature gongfu preparation for my primary review session. Following the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose leaf and bud mix in 4 ounces of 158 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf and bud mix produced aromas of hay, green olive, honey, and malt. After the rinse, I detected an even stronger green olive scent along with new aromas of butter and grass. The first infusion introduced a clear mineral scent. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented delicate yet lively notes of butter, cream, hay, honey, malt, minerals, grass, and green olive. Subsequent infusions introduced scents of lemon, dandelion, dandelion greens, umami, turnip greens, and seaweed. New notes of lemon, umami, dandelion, turnip greens, seaweed, dandelion greens, peas, and lettuce appeared in the mouth along with hints of spinach. By the end of the session, the tea liquor was still offering somewhat faded yet clear notes of minerals, green olive, grass, and peas that were chased by hints of dandelion greens, lettuce, umami, and dandelion.
Rohini is one of the Darjeeling tea estates that not only seems very willing to try new things, but also rarely if ever disappoints me. Though this offering may have been odd and subtle, it was very sophisticated and satisfying. The texture of the tea liquor was fantastic and the layering of flavors was fabulous. An impressive tea all around, I would have no issue with recommending this one to anyone looking for a unique, challenging, and highly enjoyable Indian green tea.
P.S. After conducting my gongfu review session, I had enough of this tea left to play around with, and at one point, I opted to try to brew it Western style, though I also decided to vary the temperature a bit as I went. I ended up steeping 3 g of loose tea in around 8 oz of 158 F water for my first two infusions. I then conducted a third infusion at 163 F, a fourth infusion at 168 F, and a fifth and final infusion at 176 F. Steep times for the infusions were 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 1 minute 15 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes. The results I got were pretty similar to the gongfu session detailed above, though I did note a few different aroma and flavor components here and there. This time I noted some sweet corn on the nose and in the mouth starting with the first infusion. The second infusion saw some hints of radish come out in the mouth. From the third infusion on, there was saltiness on the nose and in the mouth. It was a very marine saltiness too, reminiscent of sea salt. The final infusion saw cream come out both on the nose and in the mouth. Otherwise, I got all of the same aromas and flavors as the gongfu session.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Dandelion, Grass, Hay, Honey, Lemon, Lettuce, Malt, Marine, Mineral, Olives, Peas, Salt, Seaweed, Spinach, Sweet, Umami, Vegetal