It’s an icy Saturday morning so I wanted a warming tea. I received some samples from Tea Tracks and one of those samples is the 2023 Ai Lao Wild Black Tea. I have good memories with tea from Ai Lao so I was eager to try this sample.
2023 Ai Lao Wild Black Tea
This tea was harvested in 2023 and comes from a protected forest on Ai Lao Mountain. The cultivar is the Camellia Sinensis var Assamica.
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- 5.4g of tea for a 100ml porcelain gaiwan
- Water 99°C
The leaves have a dark brown color with a bordeaux hue. They look medium-sized and I see several stems as well. There are berries in the aroma, but I’m also getting a strawberry jam sweetness.
Infusion 1 (15 sec): the liquor in this infusion looks so thick; it’s almost like syrup. I’m getting some of the berries and it’s right there at the surface. The berries are also present in the finish and especially in the aftertaste—an enjoyable infusion to start the session.
Infusion 2 (20 sec): the color is getting darker and the liquor thicker. It has become more complex as there are berries, but that’s not the only thing. The berries feel deeper and gradually evolve into a sweet maltiness towards the finish. The aftertaste still has a berry freshness to it.
Infusion 3 (25 sec): this one feels similar to the previous infusion as it’s still warming, thick, and full of sweet and malty berries. The berry sweetness sticks to the back of my throat and stays there for a while. This is just the perfect tea to drink on this icy morning. I feel the warmth spread throughout my whole body.
Infusion 4 (30 sec): I boiled some fresh water to make sure the temperature stayed high for this tea. The berries are still going strong and it just keeps on giving. As soon as I take a sip, my whole mouth is coated with a slight maltiness in combination with sweet and red berries. The aftertaste is as intense as before.
Infusion 5 (35 sec): I feel the maltiness is getting stronger and the berries are fading a tiny bit. Still, it’s a pleasure to drink this tea. The finish is malty, but the berries return in the aftertaste after about a minute.
Infusion 6 (45 sec): it feels the same as infusion 5, which is perfect. However, I also feel a slight minerality in this one.
This has to be one of the best black teas I’ve had this year. It’s fruity, sweet, and has just the right amount of maltiness. I usually don’t go for hong cha because most of them are straight-up malty, but this one offered an intricate combination of berries and malt.
Overall great tea and great value for money. If you’re looking for an accessible hong cha, this is the one as it’s unlikely to find a better one (at least in my opinion).