Today’s review will focus on the Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea from Amba Tea Estate in Ambadandegama, Uva Province, Sri Lanka. This sample was provided by Fortnum and Mason, a famous and historic tea, coffee, and other fine goods purveyor located on Piccadilly, London, in the U.K. You can learn more about the fine teas and other goods offered by Fortnum and Mason by clicking here.
As many of you already know, the Amba Tea Estate in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka is among the premier estates in the country. With a focus on high quality, hand rolled teas and the overall betterment of the community in which it resides, Amba Estate holds a special place in the hearts of Ceylon tea lovers. I have covered the Amba Estate on many occasions, so if you want to read more about them, type Amba into the search box and you should find a nice amount of information.
Looking over the Fortnum and Mason website, it seems that one paragraph in one blog post just seems to a drop in the bucket of information that can be provided about this historic company. In terms of the company’s history, they have a great time line, which you may view here. When the day comes that my wife, son, and I get to visit London, I will be sure to have a stack of cash set aside before entering the Fortnum and Mason store on Piccadilly. With the huge range of high quality products that seem to touch every sense and interest, it would take a strong person to walk out of this store without dropping a considerable amount of cash. A wide range of high quality tea, coffee, cognac, and whisky in the same store is a financially dangerous environment for me to be in. A quick example, I see two teas from Dalreoch Farm Estate in Scotland, each costing 40 British pounds for a 20 gram bag. One is a smoked white tea. The result, I spend about $120 USD on less than an ounce and a half of tea without a second thought. I am in serious trouble if I ever walk in to this place.
Back to the review at hand, this seasonal product of Amba Estate is one that I have been trying to get my hands on for two years, and only now get the opportunity to try it. The sample packet has been opened, and it is already everything I was hoping it to be. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a uniform charcoal black color, with a nice portion of golden buds. The leaves are large fragments and whole leaves, and the buds appear to all be unbroken. The leaves are delicately hand-rolled, long, and appear to have been very carefully handled during production. The longer leaves measure well over one inch (25 mm). The pluck appears to be one leaf and a bud. The single leaf is relatively large, indicating the harvest came from the Assamica hybrid tea bushes that Amba cultivates. There are no bare stems in this sample. The smell has scents of toffee, molasses, lemon, papaya, black licorice, mint, honey, and raw cocoa. As usual with Amba products, everything about the dry leaves screams of high quality.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.
My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. Expect three worthy infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Increase steep time by 45 seconds to 1:00 minute on each subsequent infusion.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a rich, bright reddish-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of toffee, honey, black licorice, mint, geranium, papaya, lemon, carrot, and raw cocoa. The body is full, with a lively, brisk, and respectably bold character. There is also a noteworthy astringency. The taste has notes of toffee, honey, black licorice, mint, lemon, papaya, carrot, black pepper, coffee, and light geranium. The tea leaves a mentholated feel in the mouth. The aftertaste carries the spicy notes of black pepper, black licorice, and mint, with a light touch of toffee and lemon. This tea has a complexity that has no comparison in products from Sri Lanka, and arguably any other place on the planet.
The infused leaves have a uniform greenish-light brown color. The leaves are mostly large fragments, with a respectable number of unbroken leaves and buds in the mix. There are no bare stems in the sample. The pluck is one leaf and a bud. The leaves have a smooth texture, and have the heartiness of an Assamica leaf. The largest leaf measures about two inches (51 mm) long. The smell has scents of toffee, papaya, black licorice, mint, and geranium.
As expected, this Amba Estate Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea was an absolutely incredible experience from beginning to end. As if the common Amba OP1 black tea is not good enough, this seasonal OP1 just took my respect for Amba to another level. Rich, complex, bold, energizing, and intensely flavorful, there is no wonder that this tea is incredibly difficult to get a hold of in the U.S. In my mind, there is no question that this is the very best black tea that Sri Lanka has to offer. If you are able to find some, pay the price and buy some. Full disclosure, your opinion of lesser Ceylon black teas may drop off dramatically after you experience this tea. It is truly a pleasurably intense experience.
Thank you to the suppliers of Fortnum and Mason for providing this amazing sample of Amba Estate Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea. Cheers!