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What's New From India Teas

by Diana Rosen

The drama and excitement of connoisseur-level teas for the last several years have primarily focused on the wonderful greens and whites from Mainland China, plus the traditionally exquisite oolongs from Taiwan (Formosa). Now, Sri Lanka, and India in particular, are catching up with some taste sensations the like of which we have not ever had.

We have tasted several exquisite teas developed by Devan Shah, owner of Chado Tea Room in Los Angeles.

The Chinese-style Yixing pot and thimble cups are perfect for Devan's new India and Ceylon teas, allowing one to sample small quantities which provide at least three and sometimes four infusions. These teas benefit from using almost-boiling water, just a trace of bubbles in the water, and short infusion times; taste at one minute. You'll most likely drink it at that point and re-infuse. If you do want a stronger taste, infuse at thirty-second intervals and taste.

Should you not have a guywan (covered Chinese cup) or Yixing teapot, use a teaspoon of tea for each six ounces of water, and brew as usual, making sure to withdraw the infuser from the teapot to avoid over-steeping.

The Darjeeling Oolong is sweet in fragrance and, we liked it at two minutes of infusion. The liquor is a light golden, the fragrance heady, and the taste delicate yet rich. It is like a classic Darjeeling without its characteristic astringency, and the aroma, and the taste benefit from the oolong processing. The leaves are 60 percent fermented and begin with prime first flush Darjeeling tea, manufactured in the Xianjing oolong style. $16 per oz.

The Ceylon Green is an anomaly, under firing a traditional black tea to create a tippy green. It looks and smells in dry form like a delicate oolong, its long leaves beautifully hand-rolled and twisted. Following infusion one can make no mistake, this is a green tea with some "oomph." It is clean, refreshing and lively on the tongue. The Ceylon Green is quite different from China greens, not as delicate but also not as biting as some. $4.98 per oz.

Perhaps the most astonishing new tea from Devan's clever recipes is Jade Oolong, a remarkable tea that looks like a green, with lush, smooth leaves, tastes like a green, with a silky freshness, but is processed like an oolong, (15 percent fermented), which accounts for its sweet "finish" in the back of the throat. This is a winning tea of which we never tire. $8 per oz..

Devan's teas area showcased at his Chado Tea Room in Los Angeles where residents and tourists alike can sample a world of teas (and some delightful menus as well!) The three teas are part of an extensive list of teas from around the world available by mail order by calling Chado at (213) 655-2056 or (800) 442-4019.

Brand new is a green tea from the oldest garden in Darjeeling, Makaibari Tea Estates, which grows certified organic tea; in fact, theirs is the only biodynamically-cultivated tea in the world.

"We are very excited about these new teas," said Anupa Mueller, whose company, Eco Prima, Inc., represents the plantation here in the U.S. "It has taken Makaibari a little while to develop green teas, as they had to change their manufacturing system and apply new techniques. A tea manufacturer can not mix processes; each process must be done separately to make fine tea. Our black teas are in great demand in Europe, and it has only been recently that the interest for green tea has skyrocketed," Anupa added.

"Our green tea manufacturing is still in its infancy, beginning with two grades, one in leaf form, that is and a fanning that is specifically created for those who use teabags," she said.

The Makaibari green is, well, a wow! This lovely tea, an FTGFOPIS, has the taste of Darjeeling, but it is definitely a green, very delicate, light with an aroma and feel in the mouth of a classic Darjeeling. While it is not as long and nor as elegant as other Darjeeling leaves, it is quite lovely to look at. We infused the green Darjeeling guywan style for thirty seconds, then a full minute and it was, sorry to repeat myself, Wow!

The GOF (Golden Orange Fannings) fannings should actually make teabag users sit up and take notice of this green tea. The fannings, more like slightly broken pekoe than the powdery fannings common among black leaves, are absolutely stunning. They are distinctly green.

For more information on Makaibari teas, or a catalog list, please call Anupa Mueller at (914) 698-1102.

In other news from Makaibari, the 1996 Silver Tips, a second flush muscatel FTGFOPIS, is a rare, specialty item produced in very limited quantities. The leaves resemble small bits of silver with a pale green hue that is all the more remarkable when compared to the typical black leaf of a characteristic Darjeeling. (The alphabetical designation means Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe One Special). The taste is subtle, and quite similar to the traditional Silver Tip leaf, but with an obvious overlay of Darjeeling flavor.

We infused it for about thirty seconds, then for a minute, and liked it most at thirty seconds; it looked wonderful -- elegant leaves, with some downy buds in it. It held up remarkably well for the second infusion at the same thirty seconds, and we were able to get five wonderful infusions, although subsequent cups were steeped a full minute. This is a tea that begins with classical subtlety, then definitely perks up the palate.

The Makaibari 1996 Silver Tips is available exclusively from American Tea Masters Association for $25 for one-half ounce in a specially-designed gift box. To order, please call (415) 775-4227.

Diana Rosen is a freelance writer  for eZines, web site copy, and print magazine articles on food, beverage, and other lifestyle topics. The veteran journalist is also the author of 10 nonfiction books and the co-author of three others. For more information, visit write to her at dianalrosen@aol.com.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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