I want to introduce you all to the oldest tea tool in my arsenal.
This li’l guy has been in my tea retinue for the better part of five years. That’s longer than any teacup, gaiwan, electric kettle, tin or pot. He first turned up in bag of Chrysanthemum Silver Needle I purchased in 2009, and he’s been with me ever since. You – fair reader – may have seen him show up in more than one photo on this blog. Until about a month ago, I didn’t realize the significance of that.
A blue plastic scoop – useful for its simple ability to measure out a teaspoon or tablespoon of leaves – has been with me for as long as I’ve been writing about tea.
And, yet, the li’l guy doesn’t even have a name. I should change that. I dub thee…uh…Scoopy.
Eh, good enough.
Anyway, I wanted to commemorate the fifth anniversary of this useful, yet seemingly-insignificant tool in a special way. Alas, I couldn’t think of one. Then a package arrived this week.
It was from Lochan Tea!
The week before, Vivek Lochan informed me that I would be receiving a delivery of 2014 first flush Darjeelings, as well as a couple of teas from their family-owned tea estate – Doke. I’d covered their estate in the past, and three of the teas they produced. To call them great would be an understatement.
Of the two new Doke wares was their new flagship handmade black tea – one simply dubbed “Black Fusion”. I’d been looking forward to trying this new experiment for months. And I was even more stoked to be one of the first Doke fanboys to write about it.
A quick aside: The moment I got the package, my 14-year-old niece barged into my room. Her eyes instantly turned to the package.
She said, “Oooo, you got a package?!”
“Yep,” I replied. “Tea.”
“Can I pet it with my foot?” she asked…already caressing it with her foot.
“No!” I bellowed, swatting her away.
Then I went to digging.
Amidst the Darjeelings, I found it in a simple bag. I could think of no better way to celebrate a Scoopaversary than with a new, never-before-seen black tea. It was brewin’ time.
The leaves for this were…simply beautiful.
Typically, hand-crafted teas come in two varieties – largely un-tampered with and just “there”, or beautiful/thoughtfully pressed. This was the latter. So much care seemed to be put into the visual presentation – like an oolong, only twinier. The aroma was similar to Doke’s other semi-oxidized offering – their Rolling Thunder oolong – only more robust. There was a malty/woodsy underpinning along with a Dian Hong-ish peppery profile. Very unusual for an Indian tea.
I had absolutely no idea how to brew this one, to be honest. There weren’t any pre-made brewing instructions on the Lochan Tea site for it, and there weren’t any other bloggers’ prior notes to go off of. This was new territory, folks. New tea, new approach. So, I chanced a typical, touchy black tea approach – 1 teaspoon in li’l Scoopy, a 6oz. steeper cup, boiled water, and a three-minute steep.
The liquor brewed light-to-medium amber – a very oolong-y color. Aromatically, the cuppa steam was nutty, slightly earthy, and possessed the malty presence I was expecting. Not unlike the Doke Rolling Thunder in this regard.
As for taste?
It was like someone took a Malawi-grown black tea and drenched Bihar’s soil with it. And the bushes that this black tea sprang from ended up with that profile, plus a Darjeeling/Assam hybrid presence. This was unlike any other Indian tea I’d ever tasted. For a first flush tea, it had a second flush body with an autumnal flavor kick. “Nutty,” in both definitions of the word. As far as experiments go, this was great right out of the starting gate.
My only regret is that I didn’t have more to play with. Luckily, the teaspoon of leaves I’d used lasted two more infusions. Each with their own flavor profile of revolving nuts and malt. My hat (if I was wearing one) goes off to the Lochan family. This is probably my favorite of their excellent pantheon of Doke-grown wares.
I couldn’t think of a better tea to commemorate Scoopy’s “birthaversary” with.