Hiya tea-friends! Happy post-Labor Day! I hope all of you had a deliciously lazy day yesterday (whether you’re from the US or not!)!
I don’t know how many of you have extensive experience with Vietnamese teas, but I certainly do not. With the exception of a few online vendors, Vietnamese blends just aren’t that widely available or discussed in the Western world. I was recently approached by Tea From Vietnam, a company that is looking to bring the world’s attention to the exquisite teas Vietnam produces, and banish the bad (or nonexistent) reputations they believe Vietnamese teas may have. I am so excited to have a chance to sample and review some of their teas, with the hopes we can all go on this journey together to discover Vietnam and all the incredible tastes it has to offer. 🙂
The first of many teas by Tea From Vietnam that I will be having a look at is their Red Lily black tea. According to this packaging, this tea is a heavily oxidized “Golden Lily” variety, with a note that Vietnamese farmers will usually use these leaves to make oolong or green tea. To have Golden Lily be made into a black tea is a rare treat, and one that TFV is quite excited to be able to offer to western drinkers. Let’s give it a try!
As I first open the packet, the leaves smell like spiced coffee with a hint of smokiness. It makes my nose feel all tingly! I inhaled the scents a bit too deeply and actually sneezed- perhaps this tea can double in function as a way to clear one’s sinuses! 😛
Shop Link: Red Lily Black Tea
Brewing Guidelines: 205 F | 3-4 min | 200 mL | 1 tsp
Since I’ll be using a ~100 mL gaiwan, I decided to alter the brewing guidelines slightly for my own purposes. I still used roughly a teaspoon of leaves in my brewing vessel, but opted for shorter steep times (~2 minutes per infusion). This may sound redundant, but it is really important to use freshly boiled water to brew this tea- the leaves are so tightly rolled that they will not unfurl properly otherwise. I recommend steeping the leaves for a few minutes initially as a “rinse” to help speed the process along. As soon as I removed the lid from my gaiwan, a lofty scent of smoke and toasted grain danced around me. It was very strong, reaching my nose long before I actually moved closer to get a whiff of it. The brew had a very strong toasted rice flavor, the aftertaste laced with a honey-like sweetness. I was pleasantly surprised at this- I had been expecting (and I’ll be honest, dreading) strong smokey flavors based on the initial scent of the leaves. I found myself enjoying the tea more and more with each sip: somehow, the sweet honey flavor seemed to become more dominant as time went on.
With the second steeping, I could begin to see how large the leaves actually were. Just as with the first infusion, the flavor was predominantly toasted initially, but grew into a more thick sweetness with each subsequent sip. The third infusion produced a similar result, just with lighter flavors. Time to put these leaves to bed, I think. 🙂
Thoughts: I was quite impressed with Black Lily! I love black/red teas with honey-like taste profiles, and I thought the addition of the toasted nut/rice flavors really added some satisfying warmth to the brew, similar to the way drinking a genmaicha makes me feel. I still need to do a bit of tinkering with my brewing technique for this tea- TFV’s website does a great job of offering a variety of different steeping techniques to get the best flavor out of this brew, and I’ll be trying them all! It takes a lot of work (and time) to make these cheeky leaves give up their goods! 😛 I can envision Black Lily being a perfect way to warm up on the chilly mornings that I’m sure are just around the corner, and seeing as how it is priced so well at $6.90/50g, it has some serious potential to be a daily drinker. I encourage you to give it a try! 🙂
Thanks again to Tien of TeaFromVietnam for providing a sample of Black Lily for review!