I reviewed a raw (sheng) tea from Laos made from tea trees that are more than 1000 years old. It was very aromatic and not too astringent despite its young age.
This black tea has come from the same area called Xiangkhouang in Laos. Due to its price potentials, I think the leaves from older trees are only processed as dark tea (it is essentially pu-erh but cannot be called with that name). So, this black tea was made out of 200-year-old tea trees. Still a good age, I’d say. Not many dian hong cha from Yunnan are made out of such old trees.
For me, what made this tea special was that it was sundried for a day or two. It had the smell of sun, and its liquid was of colour the sun. It had a very smooth taste and a balanced maltiness. Not so much of sweetness but still a touch of elegance. This tea also had great energy, certainly lifted my spirits.
The same tea company sent me also a traditionally baked black tea (not sundried). However, both teams are made from the leaves from similar-aged trees in the same area. I tried them separately, but I will compare them soon simultaneously and report back.
Just to say that I really think that Laos tea has a lot of potentials and we will see more of it at the international level. The company who makes this tea only caters to the Chinese market and sells out every year (what I was told when I asked if they have any aged teas). According to this article, different areas in Laos, including Phongsaly in the far north, Odomxai and Xayaboury in the northwest, and Champassak in the southwest are being encouraged to plant more bushes and expand production. They receive Chinese investment, and the show is already increasing. I also saw some projects supporting tea production in rural areas in Laos funded by international organisations like UNDP and the Asian Development Bank to alleviate poverty. With the increasing production, I believe the tea I have tried the quality standard may not be maintained. Still, I am hopeful that sustainable tea agriculture can develop in Laos and crates jobs for its people.
Origin: Xiangkhouang, Laos
Harvest time: 2020
Leaf colour: Dark brown with some fuzzy golden tips
Liquor colour: Afternoon sun
Tea Aroma: Fruity and malt
Tea Taste: Mellow start with a slightly acidic finish
Steeping: Place 5g in 100ml of water at 90ºC and rinse after 10 seconds. Steep for 20 seconds during the first infusion,and add 10 seconds to the subsequent infusions. You can re-steep this tea a few times.
Shelf life: Can be aged