I am pleased to introduce my readers to the Arakai Estate, located in Bellthorpe, Queensland, Australia (see map below). This is the first Australian grown tea that I have ever experienced, and I am very excited to give it a try.
The Arakai Estate is a small scale tea grower and manufacturer with a short but successful history. The estate has a single hectare of land under tea cultivation, and also grows rainforest timbers and avocados. The estate grows six different Japanese tea cultivars, including Yabukita, Sayamakaori, Meirokyu, Yutakamidori, Fushin, and Okumidori. The first tea harvest intended for commercial distribution was completed in September of 2015. Upon being entered in to the Golden Leaf Awards held by the Australian Tea Masters, the judges awarded Arakai Estate with the “Best Australian Black Tea” award, “Best Australian Green Tea” award, and “Best Green Tea” in the international field award. I would call that a successful first harvest!
The product that I am reviewing today is the Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea. This tea was harvested and processed in October of 2016. You can purchase 25 grams of this tea from the Arakai Estate website for USD $8.00 plus shipping costs. Even though the link indicates this product as the 2015 harvest, you can choose the 2016 harvest from the “Size” drop-down box. The 2017 harvest of both the spring flush black and green teas will be ready for sale in late October this year.
Let’s get to the review…
The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal grey color, with a sprinkling of young, golden tips. The mix appears to consist of large fragments and unbroken leaves and tips. The leaves appear to be machine rolled, indicated by the consistency of the appearance. There are no bare stems in the mix. The aroma has scents of raw cacao, caramel, honey, baked bread, and a touch of sweet earthiness. The aroma is very inviting.
Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (530 ml) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F water for 3:00 minutes.
The liquid has bright, gold-yellow, honey-like color. The aroma has scents of sweet and floral honey, caramel, and a light touch of daisies. The body is medium, with a smooth, honey-like texture. There is a pleasant, light astringency, and no bitterness. The taste has notes of floral honey, caramel, daisies, and a very light touch of licorice. The aftertaste is sweet and clean, with a very pleasing hang-time on the tongue and back of the throat.
The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The mix consists of many unbroken, young leaves and tips, with the remainder being large fragments. The pluck is mostly a standalone leaf or bud, and the leaves or buds that are attached to a shoot show a single leaf and bud pluck. There are no bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a fairly hearty feel, despite the small size, as compared to the delicate feel of first flush teas from Chinese tea bushes. The aroma continues the sweet scents of caramel, honey, and daisies.
The Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea from Arakai Estate can best be compared to black teas from Taiwan, with a lighter body and character, yet refined taste. There is a consistent honey and caramel character in the aroma and taste of this tea. This black tea is best enjoyed without any additives, as milk, sugar, or added honey will likely overtake the finest qualities of this tea. It is perfect for tea purists, though, as the clean feel, sweet taste, and lingering aftertaste are sure to please. I consider this an afternoon black tea, as compared to the morning or breakfast black teas with their full body, robust flavors, and overall stronger character. Considering that this is only the second year of production of this product at Arakai Estate, it would be understatement to say that I am excited to see what they will do with their ongoing experience to produce even better quality products with future harvests.
Thank you to the Collins family at Arakai Estate for providing this sample of Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea! Congratulations on all of your successes, and best of luck in producing this years harvest! Cheers!