With over 2000 years of tea production, Vietnam is one of the oldest tea producing countries in the world. It is also the 6th largest producer, yet it is overlooked as a major tea producing country. Unfortunately most of the tea in Vietnam is machine-harvested, machine processed for use in low cost iced tea and tea bag blends. It is rare to find great hand-picked Vietnamese teas outside Vietnam.
Six or seven years ago I tasted a sample of an outstanding black tea that reminded me of Darjeeling or a high-grown Shi Lankan tea. It was sweet and floral with a flavor that I couldn’t place. I found out later that it was from Vietnam. Ever since then I have been looking for the tea with that flavor. But since most tea in Vietnam is produced to taste like strong Indian black tea it is difficult to find a tea that combines the unique combination of cultivar, terroir, and process to create that unusual flavor.
Our Vietnam Reserve is the result of my search. It was grown on the highest mountain in Indochina, Phan Xi Pan at elevation of 800 masl. The garden and factory has been here a long time, but in 2010 it underwent renovations. The equipment, nursery, and plants are all new and they are looking to become certified organic within the next year.
I struggle to find words to appropriately describe this elegant tea, but I’m going to try anyway. It is the unusual combination of tropical fruit, green grape, and the licorice-like flavor of lotus flower that makes this tea so compelling. It is a light, delicate tea perfect for enjoying as an afternoon tea, but it doesn’t possess the bracing astringency of other styles of afternoon teas.
In a 400 ml glass teapot steep 5 or 6 grams for 5 minutes. For a sharper, more complex profile steep with 210°F water. For a sweeter, fruitier flavor try 195°F water. A good extraction will not occur with water below 195°F. This tea is not well suited for cold brewing.