UPDATE: The Amba Estate Hand-Rolled GF OP1 Black Tea is now available at The Tea Journeyman Shop! Click Here to view and purchase this masterfully crafted Ceylon tea from the Uva Province of Sri Lanka.
About two weeks ago, I received a beautiful package of samples from the Amba Estate. The Amba Estate is one of the few, if not only, estates in Sri Lanka that produces very high quality, hand plucked and hand processed, artisanal quality teas. Considering the fact that my favorite black teas already come from Sri Lanka, I have been very excited to open one of these artisanal black tea samples from Amba Estate.
Sadly, I did not have a brewing vessel that I felt was appropriate for the sample weight. Admittedly, I drink more tea than I probably should, because most of the teapots in my collection are rather large (30 to 40 ounces). With the holidays coming up, I decided to invest in a nice, smaller, traditional Japanese Mogake Tokoname Kyusu. It holds about eight and a half ounces (240 ml) of liquid. I primed the pot in boiling green tea, let it dry overnight, and now it is ready for use.
What better way to welcome the Kyusu into my home than to offer it a tea that I have been waiting to experience for weeks. The sample pack of the OP1 from Amba Estate has been opened, and a beautiful aroma of dried fruits, honey, and sweet hay have hit me, as I see nicely rolled, whole leaves in the pack.
Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves of the OP1 are a uniform dark brown to black in color, with some golden tips present. The leaves are gently rolled. There appears to be some fully intact leaves, as well as tips and some fragments. No bare stems are noticeable. These leaves are certainly longer (leggy) than other OP1s and OPAs from Sri Lanka that I have experienced. The aroma is magnificent, having strong scents of dried apricots, raisins, sweet hay, and a touch of honey. The aroma is complex, sweet, and definitely on a higher level than anything I have smelled from Sri Lanka. That is really surprising to me, as many of my favorite black teas (Nuwara Eliya OP1, Uva OP1), whose aromas I find very attractive and high quality to begin with, are not on the same level as this tea.
The standard method of preparation was used for this sample. Filtered tap water was heated to 212ºF (100ºC). Three grams of dry tea leaves were placed in the eight and a half ounce (240 ml) Mogake Tokoname Kyusu. The teapot was filled about 2/3 of the way with water, about five ounces (140 ml). The leaves were infused for two minutes, with fifteen seconds being added to each infusion.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a beautiful, bright, and lively orange color, with a glowing golden ring. The liquor was clear and transparent. The aroma was incredibly sweet and complex, boasting scents of papaya, apricot, toffee, sweet potato, and very light mint and citrus scents. The liquor had a medium to full body, with a mouth filling and uplifting feel. The taste had strong notes of papaya, thick honey, black licorice, apricot, and the classic slight briskness that Uva teas are known for. The aftertaste had a black licorice note, with a menthol effect. A cooling sensation came over the mouth as I inhaled. This is an incredible tea, like nothing I have ever experienced before. Who wants to go in on a few kilos of this with me?! It is worth every penny.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a very slightly lighter shade of bright orange, with a golden ring. The color retains it’s lively, beautiful color. The aroma remained very powerful, with scents of papaya, sweet potato, black licorice, toffee, and a slight mint scent. The body remains medium to full. The taste has balanced itself slightly, but certainly lost no quality between infusions. Notes of papaya, black licorice, thick honey, apricot, with a menthol effect in the aftertaste. The briskness has dissipated some, but this fact had no negative effect on the overall taste. This second infusion was just as good as the first, if not better due to the balance. I am honestly overwhelmed by this tea.
The third infusion again was slightly lighter in color than the second infusion, but retains a bright orange color with a golden ring. The aroma can be felt the second that it is poured from the pot, and is just incredible. The scents continue to be strong on the papaya, apricot, sweet potato, black licorice, and slight mint. There is very little dissipation in the quality of the aroma between the second and third infusions. The body has lightened to medium, but maintains the mouth filling and uplifting feel. The taste remains very high quality, with notes of papaya, apricot, black licorice, thick honey, and some citrus coming through. There is no noticeabe astringency or briskness to this infusion. I think this tea can produce yet another infusion or two before it is exhausted.
The infused leaves of the OP1 have a uniform copper color. There are some fully intact leaves, quite a few tips, and some large fragments. There are very few stems, but none are completely bare. The leaves maintain some structural integrity, suggesting that an additional infusion or two may produce a good flavor. The aroma is very sweet, maintaining a papaya, citrus, black licorice, and toffee smell. These are definitely the best smelling infused leaves that I have ever experienced. These are also the best looking infused leaves from Sri Lanka that I have seen.
To say that I am impressed with this tea does not even scratch the surface of my strong feelings for it. Amazed is not even close. There is no word that holds a positive connotation that can describe how I feel about this tea. As far as black teas are concerned, this is number one to me, followed by the Red Rhythm from Taiwan. The aroma is intoxicating, the color is truly beautiful and lively, the tea has an uplifting energy to it. The taste is overwhelming. To most people, I think they would have a very hard time believing that this is not somehow flavored during production, but it is not! If you think Sri Lanka produces some good black teas, try this out and be ready to say that Sri Lanka makes some of the best black tea in the world. If you want to try this tea, I think our friends at Tealet Teas have some in their subscription boxes right now. Otherwise, I am able to order directly from Amba Estate. If you trust my word, live in the U.S., and are interested in ordering some of this tea, please message me. I will be happy to contribute towards getting a few kilos of this. You will be incredibly satisfied with your purchase.
Thank you to a very helpful woman, Beverly Wainwright, from Amba Estate. Beverly reached out to me to introduce me to the teas from Amba, and I am so grateful to have had an opportunity to try such a first class tea. Beverly, I cannot thank you enough for contacting me. By the way, Amba is one of the few estates in Sri Lanka to produce coffee, as well. Maybe I will have a friend of mine, a coffee roaster and entrepreneur, submit a guest post with a review of the Amba Estate coffee. My wife absolutely loved the “big bean” product. Anyway, thank you again, Beverly, and please continue the good work at Amba. I will be singing praises to it! 🙂 Cheers!
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