Quick Review: Six Borders Black Tea From Rakkasan Tea Company

As part of my attempts to evolve this blog, I have decided to begin publishing a new type of review called a “Quick Review”. The purpose is to avoid redundancy, and focus on the highlights of a particular product without spending time describing less important details. In no way is a quick review intended to imply that the product is unworthy of a full review. I have quite the supply of great teas to review, and I want to have time to give them all their spotlight. In order to do so, I need to improve my efficiency in writing reviews. Thus, the quick review will help accomplish this end.

With the necessary disclaimer being given, let’s turn our focus to the Six Borders Black Tea, offered by the Rakkasan Tea Company. Check out my Company Spotlight post on Rakkasan Tea Company to learn more about them.

You can purchase two ounces (50 grams) of this tea for USD $9.99 from the Rakkasan Tea Company website.

The leaves used to create the Six Borders Black Tea are harvested by a single family of H’mong farmers from wild tea bushes growing at an average altitude over 4,300 feet (1,300 meters) above sea level in the Yen Bai province of Vietnam. The Google map below shows the location of the Yen Bai province.

Let’s get to the review…

The dark charcoal grey to black leaves are all medium sized leaf fragments, fully oxidized, and rolled. There are a few golden bud fragments, and a few small bare stems. The aroma has scents of dark chocolate and an acidic fruity smell, which reminds me of slightly fermented cherries.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (530 mL) cast iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

The liquid has a rich, amber red color. The aroma has scents of tart cherries, dark chocolate, and light malt. The body is medium, with a clean, refreshing texture. There is no bitterness, but instead a unique lightly tart quality. The taste has notes of tart cherries, dark chocolate, and light malt. The aftertaste is sweet and lightly malty.

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown color, and carry the sweet scents of cherries and dark chocolate.

I have noticed with these wild grown Vietnamese teas, whether green or black, that they have a specific pure, clean, and refreshing quality to them. The Six Borders Black Tea certainly offers this same highlight. Additionally, the light tartness, which dovetails beautifully with the aroma and taste of cherries and dark chocolate, truly gives a unique character to this black tea. The tea liquid itself is not overpowering in taste or texture, and would be well received by those who prefer a mild black tea experience. For the reasonable price that this product is offered at by Rakkasan Tea Company, I highly recommend trying it.

Thanks again to Rakkasan Tea Company for providing this sample of Six Borders Black Tea.

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Special OP Black Tea from Future Generation Co. in Vietnam

Today’s review will focus on a product vaguely named Special OP Black Tea from the Future Generation Company, a Vietnamese exporter specializing in tea from Vietnam. I am currently hoping to receive more specific information on this tea in the near future, and will update this post accordingly. According to previous conversations that I had with my contact at Future Generation Co., many black teas are produced in the north of Vietnam. Whether that is the case with this tea, I do not know, but hope to find out soon.

The sample packet has been opened, and a woody, spicy, sweet smell is exiting the packet. Let the journey begin…

Special OP Black Tea Dry Leaves
Special OP Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform black color, with reddish-brown stems. The leaves are long, lightly rolled and curled. The leaves appear to be large fragments, with some whole leaves being expected. No buds or tips are obvious. There are few bare stems in the mix. The aroma has scents of wood, spice, burgundy wine, and molasses. The smell reminds me of Keemun Congou black tea, but the appearance is much different, with larger leaf fragments than Keemuns.

Ten grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes.

Special OP Black Tea 1st Infusion
Special OP Black Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a dark golden-red color, clear and transparent, with absolutely no particles. The aroma had scents of pine wood, burgundy wine, and light pepper. The body was medium-full, with a round, velvety texture. The taste had notes of burgundy wine, pine wood, light pepper, light citrus, and light malt. The burgundy wine note continued in the aftertaste, and a sweetly floral essence is left on the breath.

Special OP Black Tea 2nd Infusion
Special OP Black Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a lighter shade of golden-red color. The aroma lightened significantly, but retained the scents of pine wood and burgundy wine. The body lightened to medium, and the texture thinned. The taste also lightened significantly, and retained notes of burgundy wine, light pine wood, light malt, very light pepper. The citrus note was not detectable in the second infusion. The aftertaste lightened also.

A combination of time restraints and the surprisingly light character of the second infusion convinced me to skip the third infusion for this review.

Special OP Black Tea Infused Leaves
Special OP Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark brownish-green color. The leaves are large fragments and a respectable amount of whole leaves. There are very few bare stems, and no noticeable buds or tips. The leaves have a soft, smooth texture, and are moderately delicate. The leaves are generally larger than many comparable black teas. The aroma has scents of wood, light spice, and light cocoa.

Overall, I found the first infusion of the Vietnam Special OP Black Tea to be an excellent detour from Chinese Keemum Congou. It had some similar scents and tastes, but in different strengths, and added some other taste notes that I do not pick up in Chinese Keemun Congou. I found this tea to be slightly less robust than Chinese Keemun Congou, making it a good choice for the tea drinkers who do not care to be overwhelmed by body and taste. The appearance of this tea is interesting, with large fragments and whole leaves being lightly rolled. I was surprised by how much character this tea lost from the first to second infusion, especially considering the large fragments and leaves. However, the second infusion was still enjoyable. Given the lower price of this tea, I can see it being an economic and reasonable replacement for Keemun Congou. Of the black teas from Vietnam that I have tried, this was the most interesting and tasteful. This is definitely worth trying, if you can find it.

Cheers!