Monday, March 9, 2015

Ancient tea tree high mountain Vietnamese tea

This review covers the last of a number of teas I picked up on a trip to Hanoi, and one of the most interesting (but my favorite was that black tea; amazing stuff for an inexpensive random tea-shop find).

I really don't have much to say about the impact of the tea tree being ancient, or the weather, or medicinal properties, but interesting all the same.  

If this really was green tea (which isn't so clear) the water should probably be cooler, but since astringency wasn't really an issue (not in the sense of the bitterness of typical Vietnamese green teas) brewing temperature didn't seem to matter, which I confirmed by varying it.

the tea!  looks like a Vietnamese green tea, except for the color

The back story:

Ancient tree high mountain tea; a good start.

I had assumed this was green tea (it didn't say, and it was from Vietnam). The tea package referenced a website (you don't always get that), but the English button on the page doesn't work, so if I hear back from them about asking about the tea I'll add it later.

The inside label mentions the tea is from "Shan" tea buds, which is interesting. The Shan are an indigenous ethnic group located in the region, predominantly in Myanmar (former Burma), so this isn't really a tea-type reference.

Nonetheless this is a familiar reference, so I'll cite other places to read further about other Shan teas:

-a review of tea from Myanmar by the Tea Journeyman blog (a Shan Valley tea, without description of ethnic origins ties)

-background on the Shan ethnic people related to tea by a Siam Teas (vendor) site, with another separate link to a related product

Links to pu'er:

Before the actual review I'll go ahead and say it; the tea reminded me of a sheng (green) pu'er. It tasted like it, "felt" like it, even looked like it (the brewed tea I mean, but the dry leaf color was a little unusual too, dark but not the dark blue-green typical to Vietnamese green teas).

The Siam Teas product was described and sold as a Thai version of a loose pu'er (really a Chinese regional designation in addition to describing a style, but people can and do make similar teas in other places).  One main point of the Tea Journeyman blog main point was that other unrelated product from Myanmar seemed like a pu'er.

I'm not claiming any degree of relation to pu'er or pu'er-style teas (about tea plant type, or processing, etc.), except saying it tasted like one to me. Here is a nice link to a set of articles to read up on what pu'er is all about, which is a very long story.

a bit dark golden for a green tea

Tea review:

Tasted like a pu'er (sheng, green), with primary mineral elements, tastes like rock, slate/ flint. The flavors aren't really complex, they just cover a consistent broad range, with the mineral component also spanning earthy element, wood.

The tea has an unusual body or feel, thick and rich, with long finish / aftertaste. Tea seemed "dry," to put part of that a different way.

The character is not like a conventional green tea, the flavors are not grassy or vegetal, and the texture elements are completely different than for those typical types (Vietnamese or otherwise).

brewed leaves, a bit broken with buds

not ideal packaging, but maybe good it could breathe a little

My impression, in conclusion:

For someone else that loved this style of tea it might be a great find.  I'm open to appreciating different types of teas and it was interesting, and nice, and definitely a good tea (in the sense of my impression of the quality of the tea), but just not my favorite type.

This probably comes across too negatively.  I love drinking different types of tea and it would be boring and sad if I only drank all black tea and darker oolongs.  Just as I've been trying some darjeeling lately and I'll cycle back to lighter oolongs and conventional greens--it is almost that time--it will be great drinking this along with my most favorite types.


  1. I recognise Vietnam both in what you wrote and the presented images. I like the information here. The oldest trees are shan tuyet trees. The tea sounds very promising. It is a rare find especially in the south of the country. Like many countries there is a bit of a north-south divide. In the south far more coffee than tea is drunk, in the north more tea. I look forward to more of your posts.

  2. Thanks Robert! I'll check further on that reference to "shan tuyet" trees, which isn't familiar. I added another post about some great teas and a great source in Ho Chi Minh City, the next blog entry. As I'm still just exploring teas, a bit new to it even for writing a blog for a year and a half, I really appreciate comments and input.