Okay, another of my recent sipdowns is coming at you. I purchased a 100g pouch of this tea last year when I was trapped at home during what I shall from hereafter refer to as Plague Year #1. I was looking for some affordable teas to goof off with, so I was checking out each of What-Cha’s bargain bin offerings and snapping up the ones I thought were most interesting and/or that I thought I could get away with storing for a while should I develop the need. When I saw this tea, I just had to get it. I had never tried a Rwandan tea, and since What-Cha has always had a great track record with their African offerings, I assumed that I would be into this one. Upon trying it, I was reminded of why I should never make assumptions. I did not get around to cracking this tea open until I was preparing to go on a kayaking trip with my father, my cousin, and my cousin’s girlfriend. I stayed up the night before we left packing and cleaning my house and then brewed two large thermoses of this tea before my father and I hit the road. I thought it would be cool for us to try a tea that was wholly new to both of us and to compare notes while we were on the road. Well, it turned out that my father was dealing with sinusitis, so he couldn’t taste or smell anything, and I, well, really didn’t care for this tea at first. It eventually grew on me a little, but it was mostly a malty, woody, dry kind of tea that I ultimately felt could have used a bit more sweetness for balance.
For my review session, I prepared this tea in the Western style. I steeped 3 grams of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 203 F water for 5 minutes. I did not rinse the leaves prior to steeping nor did I attempt any additional steeps.
Prior to steeping, the dry tea leaves presented aromas of baked bread, malt, and raisin. After steeping, I detected new aromas of cream, butter, roasted almond, and vanilla that were underscored by subtle scents of prune and honey. In the mouth, the tea liquor was dry and brisk, offering up notes of wood, grass, hay, roasted walnut, roasted hickory, roasted almond, cocoa, cream, butter, brown sugar, roasted sweet potato, baked bread, malt, leather, earth, orange zest, and roasted potato that were balanced by subtler notes of vanilla, smoke, raisin, prune, pear, honey, and cinnamon. Each sip finished with pronounced bitterness and astringency enveloping oily roasted nut notes and leathery, buttery, malty, woody impressions.
After trying this tea for the first time whilst on the road and hating it, I expected to hate it even more when I came back to it, but the more I tinkered with it, the more I appreciated it. It was not a knockout tea by any means, but it had a lot to offer, displaying much more depth and complexity than I initially thought was present. In my opinion, this tea worked best as a basic breakfast tea. It offered a quick hit of lasting energy to keep me going through the first part of the day and was just astringent, bitter, and flavorful enough to instantly cut through my morning grogginess. If, like me, you are not a morning person, putting something like this in your system as soon as you get moving is a great way to perk yourself up for the day. Unfortunately, if you are looking for something that offers a memorable and fun drinking experience on its own, a tea like this will likely not fit the bill. If it had possessed just a little more sweetness, it would have been more satisfying for me, but as it was, it was not the most exciting of African black teas. Just use this one as your morning pick-me-up, and you’ll probably be fine with it.
Flavors: Almond, Astringent, Baked Bread, Bitter, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Earth, Grass, Hay, Honey, Leather, Malt, Nutty, Orange Zest, Pear, Potato, Prune, Raisins, Smoke, Sweet Potatoes, Vanilla, Walnut, Wood