The family Collins, purveyors of the Arakai Estate, have had a busy year.
Which is a bit of an understatement.
Editor’s Note: This is merely a thought exercise by the author. The opinions reflected in the below narrative do not reflect the opinions of the teaware on staff . . . or this editor, for that matter.
Seriously, I just work here, guys.
A thought occurred to me over the years. No one has come to a clear consensus as to what the proper tea categories are. The general consensus is that there are six: Heicha (Dark Tea), Hong Cha (Black/Red Tea), Wulong, Green Tea, Yellow Tea, and White Tea. However, some say that yellow tea isn’t its own category (even though it clearly is). Others champion the stance that dark tea shouldn’t include sheng (raw) puerh. Others still believe puerh should be its own category. Hell, even some international trade laws only recognize two tea categories.
So, this got me thinking . . .
If I were the end-all/say-all authority on tea lexicography, how would I divvy up the different tea types? What would my breakdown look like? Well, in order to answer that question, I must breakdown (and in some cases, outright destroy) existing trends. This might over-complicate the issue, and over-simplify other things. But this is my write-up . . . and I’ll do what I want. So, here we go:
To date, I’ve had three or four experiences with Georgian teas. As in, teas grown in the country of Georgia; not the U.S. state. However, there was one type of tasting session I had yet to do. That being, to try all the wares from one farmer/producer, in order to enjoy their individual quirks and artistry.
And then I read THIS.
You should read it, too. I’ll wait.
The folks behind Tea in the City (a UK-based online tea operation) made a sourcing trip across the entire expanse of the Caucasus range—from Azerbaijan, to Sochi, Russia, and then on down to Georgia. They visited many large producers in the country, and on their final leg of the journey, they ended up in the region of Guria. Specifically, they found a farmer in the small town of Ozurgeti, just outside of the larger resort town of Batumi.
The farmer in question? A guy named Davit.
About a year and a half ago (from the time of this writing), I wrote about Bitaco Tea—an outfit based near La Cumbre, Colombia.
Their specialty? You guessed it. Colombian grown tea. I encountered their booth at World Tea Expo in the summer of 2015, and they passed on several samples of their wares. Several months later, I finally featured their green and black tea on this here blog. Needless to say, I liked what I sampled.
Imagine my surprise when I encountered them again at the 2016 World Tea Expo. This time, however, they passed on several different grades of their green tea and black tea. Also, a little something special.
I “heart” the Doke tea estate.
No, I’m not ashamed to use the word “heart” instead of “love”. Especially today. Okay, I winced a tiny bit at the grammatical incorrectness of it (and the cutesiness of it) . . . but the sentiment still stands. And, given when this blog is going up, the cutesy incorrectness is fitting.
One uneventful day, I was checking out the Arakai Tea Estate‘s Instagram feed, and I noticed this picture.
Simply put, they were showing how their black tea was rolled. They also left a humorous anecdote about the foam that formed as a result of the rolling . . . and wondered (jokingly) if it had any possible pharmaceutical application. I could only think of one.
“I’d freebase it,” I commented.
To which they replied, amusedly, “The value of this foamy stuff just went up ten-fold!”
What does this have to do with their farm-grown, Australian green teas? Er . . . I was foaming at the mouth after trying them? Yeah, that’s a smooth segue. On to the green teas!
Four years ago, I “discovered” the Harendong estate.
I put “discovered” in air-quotes because . . . it’d been there for eight years by the time I ran across it. Perhaps I should say, it was new to me. They had a booth at the 2013 World Tea Expo—under their Banten Tea brand—and the thing that excited me about them was where they were from.
I’ll make this quick, I swear. Well, quicker than usual. I know you all have Christmas/holiday shopping to do, or something equally as holiday-y. But I have a cute li’l holiday blurb to get off my chest . . . so deal with it.
They called it “Green Pearls of Agni“, named for the Hindu fire god. (“Agni” literally translates to “fire”, from the original Sanskrit.) It resembled Bi Luo Chun (the Chinese green tea) in its visual delivery, but—unlike good ol’ “Green Snail Spring”—they lightly smoked the leaves over oak wood. The results showed up in the fragrance, campfire and cinders.
Australian Tea Week! Day 1: “The Arakai Estate”
The Land Down Under. Oz. Or whatever other people (including the locals) call it. Our southernmost Pacific neighbor is known for many things: weird and diverse wildlife, a wicked sense of humor, numerous flora and fauna that can kill you in a heartbeat, sometimes good beer . . . and . . . women. Oh my, the women!
One day, Rebel. One day.
Where was I? Oh yes . . .
One thing people might not know, however, is that parts of continent have taken up tea growing as a trade. They’ve tried their hand at it since the 1880s. Of course, because Australia is . . . well . . . Australia, sustainable plantings didn’t take hold successfully until around the 1960s. However, since then, many operations have emerged—Daintree, Madura, etc.
Which brings me to the Arakai estate—a garden in Bellthorpe, Queensland, Australia.