Sunday, July 15, 2012

Iranian Hand-Picked and Processed Tea

Every Saturday, I meet with former teachers from Assumption University of Thailand. Usually three of us meet with several different teachers dropping by as they have time. I provide all the tea and our afternoons are spent visiting and drinking tea, beer and sometimes Coke.

Last week, Saeed, an American born and raised in Iran, brought some wild tea he had picked from a mountain near his village in Northeast Iran. He had just recently returned from taking care of some family business. This week, I had Saeed bring back his Iranian tea so we could have an official tasting. This is the results of that tasting.

Saeed told us every year his family picked this wild tea from a mountain nearby and let it dry in the sun for several days. That is all the processing they do to prepare it to drink. The leaves, as one can sea, are new, very delicate and small. The leaves reminded me of the Mengding Gan Lu and other similar teas we saw in Sichuan.

Another view of the leaves. They were pale green and dried naturally without any rolling or frying. Dick, the other retired teacher from Assumption, and I figured the tea would be sweet, fresh and quite mild based on these leaves.

A close-up look at a single group of this very green looking Iranian tea.

Another single tea grouping. Small. Very, very small!

The smell of the tea was distinctive and a lot stronger than what I had expected. The strange spicy smell one finds in the markets of Central Asia.

Saeed makes our tea. He uses the Chinese clay pot I purchased in Tunxi, Huangshan area of Anhui Province a couple of years ago. What he does differently than the Chinese is he leaves the steeping pot of tea over the boiling water for several minutes, Iranian style. This insures a strong even steeping. Saeed knows a heck of a lot more about tea than I will ever know. Iranians drink tea, a lot of tea.

The tea comes out like a Qimen red tea. Very strong looking and beautiful. I was blown away by the apparent lack of fermentation of the leaves and the resulting color. Amazing!

Tasting the tea was even more mind-blowing. The tea was strong, rich and had a strange but wonderful spicy taste right up front. There was very little aftertaste but strong feelings of tea on both sides of the tongue. This tea was made for milk and/or yoghurt - Iranian style.

Here Dick enjoys the taste of the tea. This tea is as different from Chinese tea as is coffee. It is strong with a huge caffeine kick right up front. It will open ones eyes in the morning. The taste was definitely tea but with a strange, "I can't quite place it" taste. The closest I could come was the smells from open air spice markets along the Silk Road in Xinjiang Province of China. A mixture of spices and flowers with strong tones of an Indian black tea. Strange, different and wonderful.

I informed Saeed he must return to Iran at the proper time and bring us all a kilo of this Iranian tea.


Anonymous said...

Have all of you given up on beer at the Saturday meetings? Seems strange to see some of you without beer.

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