Yesterday, I opened the nicely made gift box from Amba Estate in Uva Province, Sri Lanka. Today, I am trying the second hand-made artisanal tea product that the gift box contains, the Champagne White Tea Stars.
Considering that I just reviewed another Amba Estate tea yesterday, I will spare you the monotony of covering that information again. There are two interesting things about the Champagne White Tea Stars, however. First of all, white tea from Sri Lanka is a specialty product to begin with. When comparing Ceylon silver needle white tea to Chinese silver needle or white teas from others terroirs, I prefer the sweet and delicate character of the Ceylon silver needle. Ceylon silver needle teas are generally quite expensive. The Tea Journeyman Shop has Ceylon Silver Tips White Tea from the Uva Greenland Estate. Click Here to check it out!
Secondly, these tea stars are hand tied. I tried to take some clear close-ups of the tea stars to show the precision that is required to create this unique design. I imagine that only the most skilled workers at Amba are tasked with tying these stars, since the silver tips are quite prized, and not something that management would want being damaged and thrown away.
So, let’s see if these Champagne White Tea Stars smell and taste as interesting as they look. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves are quite unique, with some of the buds appearing almost black, and the others the usual silver color, all covered with fine downy-like hairs. The buds are long and narrow, with a sickle shape. Needless to say that this star is comprised entirely of unopened tea buds, with no opened leafs or stems at all. The buds are tied together with very thin, fine black threading. Each star only weighs about half a gram.The tea buds have a smooth, fine texture. The smell of the stars are quite delicate, yet sweet, with scents of honey, toffee, papaya, and what I would describe as an orange marmalade. There are also very light scents of flowers and hay, but they are almost unrecognizable.
Despite the light weight of each star, I used two tea stars (about one gram) in a five ounce (150 ml) glass gaiwan, in order to appreciate the stars once they expand. Purified water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The tea stars were infused for 5:00 minutes.
For at home preparation, I suggest following the same parameters as above. Expect three to four light, yet good quality, infusions from the same serving of tea stars. Add one minute to every subsequent infusion.
Here is a photo of the two tea stars infusing in the glass gaiwan.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a pale, light golden yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma is delicate, yet very sweet and floral, with scents of honey, toffee, fresh valley flowers, papaya, light black licorice, and light orange marmalade. The aroma is impressive given the light weight of leaves used. The body is light, with a refreshing and gentle texture. Despite the long infusion time of 5:00 minutes, there is not a touch of astringency or bitterness in the taste. The taste has notes of honey, valley flowers, papaya, black licorice, toffee, and very light hay. The aftertaste is light and sweet, with gentle notes of honey, papaya, and black licorice. This tea has a very relaxing and refreshing energy to it. Perhaps I am just not used to light teas anymore (I tend to go heavy on the amount of leaves that I use).
The infused buds have a uniform light copper brown color. It is easy to identify the fine black thread used to tie the buds together. Again, there are no opened buds or leaves, and no stems used. The buds have a soft, smooth texture. The smell of the infused buds is incredibly sweet and welcoming, with strong scents of papaya, flowers, honey, toffee, and orange marmalade. Amba Estate, can you make a candle scented like this? I will put one in each room of my house and office.
The White Tea Stars are another impressive hand made product from Amba Estate. Although you will not be able to enjoy these daily, as they are fairly expensive, difficult to find in North America, and very light in character, this is a perfect tea to enjoy on a special occasion, or to impress and fascinate a very small group of friends. The aroma and taste are incredible, and yet delicate, refreshing, and relaxing. You definitely want to steep these stars in a glass pot or gaiwan to appreciate how they open up and expand once wet. At this time, I unfortunately do not know of any retailers in North America who carry the White Tea Stars from Amba Estate. I only have two left myself, so they will stay in an airtight canister until a special occasion comes around.
Thanks to all of the workers and management at Amba Estate for the hard work and dedication in making such artisanal products. I am proud to have had an opportunity to try the White Tea Stars from Amba Estate. Cheers!