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My tasting notes: Organic Assam black tea

My tasting notes: Organic Assam black tea

"I grew up on this estate, so for me Chota Tingrai is full of memories. The butterflies, the fresh smell of rain, the Tingrai river that winds its way through the estate, the sound of the crickets before a roaring thunder, and the loud rain pattering on the tin roofs and a sea of glowing fireflies are some of my favourite memories of the estate".

Avantika Jalan, Managing Director and Founder, Mana Organics

Assam is one of world's largest tea-growing regions. Both mass-market CTC (crush-tear-curl) and specialty orthodox teas are produced here. Did you know that tea blends like English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast are made using Assam black tea? Assam black tea is an excellent base for the preparation of Masala chai too!

Today I’m tasting award-winning Mana Organics Certified Organic Assam Black Tea from Chota Tingrai tea estate. Chota Tingrai has been a family owned tea estate since their establishment in 1943. It extends over more than 100 hectares of certified organic land. I really appreciate their environmental and social commitment. I had the chance to ask Avantika Jalan, Managing Director and Founder of Mana Organics, a few questions. Here they are.

Is this tea harvested by hand? What happens then to the tea leaves? What machines are employed in its processing? 

"The TGFOP1 is a whole leaf orthodox grade, to make this tea, the process is as follows: 
Tea leaves are hand plucked by women at the estates, the two-leaves-and-a-bud are plucked from the tea bushes, and every bush is plucked once a week. Tea production occurs on a daily basis. Once plucked, the tea leaves are collected from all the pluckers and taken to the factory, located within the tea estate. The leaves are then spread out in troughs and allowed to wither. This process takes about 8-12 hours, depending on the weather. Once about 30% of the moisture has been lost, the tea leaves are ready for further processing. The withered tea leaves go through a rolling machine where the leaves are rolled and twisted. These rolled leaves start breaking down the tannins through the process of chemical wither, and after about 20-30 minutes of fermentation, the teas pass through a dryer, where hot air dries the teas to arrest the chemical reactions. Once dried, these teas are sorted into different sizes and grades, TGFOP1 is one of the higher quality grades, where the buds and fine leaves make up the grade". 

What elements of the terroir of Chota Tingrai estate are present in the flavor profile of this tea? 

"These teas have characteristics of the soil, the water, the style of plucking as well as the style of manufacture that is unique to Chota Tingrai tea estate. The settings on the rolling machines, the factory settings, withering time, plucking intervals, and of course the specific soil conditions in Chota Tingrai make this TGFOP1 unique and different from other TGFOP1s from the same region. Additionally, Chota Tingrai being an organic estate, our in-house compost that's made from biomass collected from within the estate, as well as the careful management of biodiversity to allow for natural pest management lends to the brightness of the liquor, and the unique taste that can really be tasted if one pays close attention to the sweet after taste that lingers in the mouth, as compared to most other Assam teas that are not organically produced". 

Mana Organics Certified Organic Assam Black Tea

Tea Name: Organic Assam Black Tea
Origin: Assam, Chota Tingrai tea estate, India
Ingredients: black tea
Grade: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Harvest: 2nd flush, July 2016
Preparation Method: Western-style tea pot
Leaves/Water Ratio: 7 gr to 24 oz (700 ml) filtered water
Water Temperature: 212 F / 100 C
Steep Time: 4 minutes, 1 single steep
dry leaves: dark grey and dark brown small and medium leaves, rolled lengthwise, some golden tips
wet leaves: dark brown with rusty hues
liquor: bright orange, coppery
dry leaves: very aromatic, sweet, notes of licorice, lavender and dried herbs
wet leaves: sweet and earthy
liquor: sweet, notes of damp earth, chocolate and burnt milk
liquor: sweet and malty, notes of Italian black licorice candy, bold and flavorful but not bitter

MOUTHFEEL: pleasantly astringent and slightly mouth-coating (tannic) with a sweet and complex lingering aftertaste
FOOD PAIRING: French cannelés, my latest obsession, tiny fluted French pastries from the Bordeaux region. They have a caramelized crust (originally made of beeswax), a custard-like center and are flavored with rum and vanilla. Heavenly! Perfect to counterbalance the bold Assam notes.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: bold and complex but not bitter. I might experiment and cold brew it just to see what subtle notes cold water draws out. 

Disclaimer: tea sample provided for review by Mana Organics. This is my honest opinion. I am not affiliated with Mana Organics. I was not paid to mention or review businesses, products or services mentioned in this blog post. You can find this tea and more information here. A heartfelt thank you to Avantika Jalan for answering my questions.

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