I just met Nedim Behar, the owner of the Chaidim tea company, last Saturday at the Bangkok tea expo (World of Coffee and Tea, which I just posted about) but I'm already writing an update. It turns out that he does on-location sales, and one location was on the commute home, so I stopped by to talk more about tea, and maybe to pick up that Dong Ding I mentioned but didn't get to.
I already mentioned it, but they sell "regular" teas, Thai oolongs, as well as tisanes / herb teas and some blends. I had tried a Thai Dong Ding-style tea I really liked, a medium roasted oolong made in the style of some Taiwanese teas. Dong Ding is both the name of a mountain in the Nantou area and used as a general reference for a tea type (although not everyone is probably into that last part, borrowing a narrowly defined regional name as a type-name convention).
It turns out I was trying a better Dong Ding tea, not their ordinary commercial version. I had tried that second, more mass-produced version in a tea-bag preparation, and it was pretty good, in a closely related style, just not as good as I'd remembered. We tried two more really interesting teas during this second visit, again not the kind they sell in the prepared boxes, or in any substantial volume, since they don't make a lot of these. So this post isn't going to work well for that kind of marketing write-up, but it's not about that.
Nedim also makes teas, or takes part in the process, which is why they are making these small-batch, interesting styles of teas. We also tried a Thai Oriental Beauty, a nice tea. Of course I've written about at least two other versions, possibly three, with the curled-leaf style types sold by Teaside and Tea Village being essentially the same general style as the one we tried. I'll get back to what that tea and a second type was like.
His business model is an interesting one, selling boxed, packaged teas through other outlets, and also presenting teas on location, as at that tea Expo, or on-site this week at the Central Food Hall in Chitlom, in the grocery store in that mall. It's like having a store that moves around; sounds effective, but sounds like lots of work.
Reviewing two teas
They don't ordinarily sell these two teas I'll mention, so odd to be writing about them, but figuring out what better Thai teas are out there is one of my interests.
The Oriental Beauty wasn't so different than those other versions I've tried: sweet, with an interesting character, heading towards a bit of spice or maybe even citrus. The smell of the brewed leaf was a lot like chocolate, not just cocoa, but actual prepared chocolate (which I guess would add scent components related to cocoa butter to that of cocoa powder, since sugar doesn't really have a smell). There must have been a little cocoa in the flavor profile to but it was subtle, folded into the rest.
It's tempting to compare it to those other two Thai Oriental Beauty teas, although of course there is a limitation in comparing across months of time (the last review was in March). In part that's what these blog posts are for, to supplement my own memory, and to keep pictures and links organized, so I'll compare against both memory and summary, it just won't work as well as side-by-side tends to.
Those two others seemed consistent enough to refer to them as the same tea, which they might have been. They both might have been a little sweeter, with a bit more fruit showing up, peach in addition to a mild citrus, maybe a little more cinnamon / cocoa. I guess since I've not really described them much differently I'm saying they might have been a little more intense, not so unusual for nicer Oriental Beauty versions, to really "pop." They were all pretty close in style, not so different in effect, and all in a nice range to be in, typical for Oriental Beauty. This latest tea was obviously not the same since it looked different, like an Oriental Beauty, just with leaves a bit less curled, in between what I've seen of OB and some Bai Mu Dan styles.
one cultivar reference version, but none are really the final word
We tried the Qingxin (I'm pretty sure, although I guess it's possible I've mixed that up, just seems unlikely). So basically this was the same as the two different versions of Thai Dong Ding I'd just tried of theirs, just prepared differently. It was a bit lighter, but still not the very light roast one usually sees of Thai oolongs, it had more layers of complexity going for it from some additional roasting.
The odd (and cool) flavor aspect was a trace of coffee coming across, related to that bit more roasting. It wasn't oxidized and roasted until it extended into the range of cinnamon and cocoa as a Dong Ding style can be, heading towards a black tea in character in some ways, but stopping in a very different place, with the roasting effect changing the character. A friend once mentioned an Indonesian vendor making a tea designed to taste a lot like coffee, also an oolong but even more heavily roasted to bring out that unusual effect, and they confirmed it really is out there, but until I try that tea I'll not go into details, and I don't think there is any online mention to see.
Beyond that one aspect it shared a lot in common with better lightly oxidized oolongs, a full feel, a rich, full character, some mineral aspects kicking in, nothing too vegetal, maybe hinting a little towards floral but nothing like a better Tie Kuan Yin. I liked it, even though it was still close to a lighter oolong style I'm really burned out on. Whereas I'd love to drink more of that better Dong Ding this style was more something I could appreciate and leave it at that. It's probably better and closer to Dong Ding than what one usually buys as a Thai version of that in Thailand, just different.
It's funny how all these aspects don't really add up to a new story, but together they sort of do: a new vendor sales model in Thailand, essentially a moving shop, a new Oriental Beauty and Thai oolong in a slightly different style. I would've collected some more aspects and written about it later (I have some floral and blend tea-bag versions to try) but I wanted to mention they are at Central Chidlom, for people here interested in taking a look. Their teas must be in lots of other places, and although it's sort of just decent commercial tea it works much better to try teas before buying them, talk about what they are, and then only buy what you like. That's just a description of what a tea shop should be doing, but in this vendor's case they move around.