Silk Oolong Tea From Araksa Tea Garden

Today’s review will focus on the Silk Tea from Araksa Tea Garden in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Although not specified as an oolong tea by Araksa Tea Garden, the leaves are definitely partially oxidized, and have undergone more processing than a white tea. Thus, for the purpose of reviewing the tea, and determining steeping guidelines, I have classified this as an oolong tea.

For more information on Araksa Tea Garden, check out my Company Spotlight post.

Let’s get to the review…

The dry leaves vary in color from pale dark green to pale light brown to pale dark brown, with some pale gold-yellow buds and silverish buds. The leaves consist almost entirely of unbroken, whole leaves and buds attached to stems, showing a range of plucking standards from one leaf and bud to three leaves and bud. There are a few detached, large leaf fragments. There is a generous amount of mature, large buds, and no totally bare stems. The leaves and buds are partially oxidized (as an estimate, maybe 30 to 40%), are very lightly hand rolled, and appear to have been pan fired. It is obvious that great care was put into shaping these leaves. The aroma has scents of toasted oats, light brown sugar, dried corn, and dried chrysanthemum flowers.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

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Araksa Silk Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, golden yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has interesting scents of chrysanthemum, sweet corn, and a touch of hay. The body is surprisingly full, will a silky, very smooth texture. There is no bitterness or astringency. The taste has notes of sweet corn, chrysanthemum, and hay. The aftertaste carries the hay and floral qualities, but with a subtle developing undertone of rose apples. There is lasting floral essence left on the breath.

The infused leaves vary slightly in the depth of the pale brown tones of color. The blend consists mostly of unbroken, whole leaves and buds attached to stems. There are a few large leaf fragments, detached from the stems, and no totally bare stems. The plucking standard varies from one leaf and mature bud to three leaves and mature bud. The largest buds measure nearly two inches (50 mm) long. Most of the buds this size are enveloping a younger bud. These are beautiful tea leaf specimens to observe. While hot, the leaves carry the aroma of chrysanthemum and corn. As they cool, the infused leaves hold a strong scent of magnolia flowers.

The Silk Tea from Araksa Tea Garden is a truly unique product. The leaves are beautiful to visually observe and handle in both the dry and infused forms. As mentioned above, it is obvious that the people at Araksa took incredible care of these leaves during production to not tear, detach, or otherwise damage the appearance. The taste is also unique, a blend of floral and corn notes. I cannot say I expected to find these characteristics in this tea, and although the combination was  a challenge to understand and interpret at first, the final description seemed to come rather easily. The aroma of the cool, infused leaves is spectacular. It feels as if I stuck my nose into one of the large blooming magnolia flowers in the front of my house. Overall, this was a fascinating experience, and I would recommend this more to fellow tea enthusiasts who can appreciate the specific qualities offered by this tea.

Thanks again to the management at Araksa Tea Garden for providing this sample of Silk Tea. Keep up the interesting and innovative work! Cheers!

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White Tea From Araksa Tea Garden in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Today’s review will focus on the White Tea from Araksa Tea Garden. Learn more about Araksa by visiting my Company Spotlight post.

This white tea is a silver needle or silver tips style, consisting only of tea buds hand harvested from Camellia Sinensis Assamica bushes. The leaves are sun withered and dried in order to maintain as much natural character of the tea buds as possible. This is the first white tea that I have had that was grown and manufactured in Thailand.

Let’s get to the review…

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Araksa White Tea – Dry Buds

The dry buds have a uniform pale forest green color, and are covered in the silver-white fuzz that is common among this style of white tea. The mix consists of all whole, unbroken buds. There are no bud fragments, no leaves or leaf fragments, and no bare stems. The buds have the common sickle shape, and some are quite large. In fact, a few of these buds are the largest (in length) that I have witnessed from any silver needle style white tea from any origin. The longest dry bud measured just over two inches (50 mm) long. The longer buds can be attributed to the Assamica bushes that they are harvested from, known to have larger features than the Sinensis bushes that most other white teas on the market are harvested from. The buds are long and narrow, coming to a point at the tips. The buds have a soft, smooth texture. The aroma is delicate, with light scents of sweet hay, vanilla, dried tulips, and a touch of buttery popcorn.

Four grams of dry buds were placed in a 7.1 ounce (210 mL) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 185°F (85°C) water for 3:00 minutes. Four quality infusions were extracted from this serving of buds.

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Araksa White Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a light, pale yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma is quite delicate, with light scents of tulip, hay, and a touch of butter. The body is light, with a silky texture. There is no bitterness or astringency. The liquid has a refreshing, calming energy. The taste is also delicate, with notes of tulip, hay, and a touch of butter. The aftertaste carries the delicate floral character.

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Araksa White Tea – Infused Buds

The infused buds have a uniform fresh, forest green color, with a few buds showing reddish-brown spots along the midribs. This is due to a small amount of oxidation that can occur during the natural withering and drying process that the buds go through. The buds are long and narrow, coming to a point at the tips. They have a smooth, soft, delicate texture. Some of the buds are very long, and when closer examined, have three layers of buds. The largest bud envelopes a younger bud which then envelopes a very young bud (see the photo below). These buds are a pleasure to examine. The aroma again is quite delicate, with scents of light flowers and hay.

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Araksa White Tea – Single Specimen

The White Tea from Araksa Tea Garden is a gentle, easy drinking silver needle tea that boasts a refreshing floral bouquet, and a comforting, silky smooth texture. The buds themselves are a pleasure to examine and play with. They feel as if they were just plucked off the bush yesterday. I was curious to see if these buds, plucked from Assamica bushes, would have a bolder taste than those harvested from Sinensis bushes, since the Assamica teas generally have a stronger tasting quality. I found that these buds did not share that robust character. This tea is surprisingly delicate.

Thanks again to the management at Araksa Tea Garden for providing this sample of White Tea. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Preserve Green Tea From Araksa Tea Garden in Thailand

Just a little while ago, I introduced my readers to the Araksa Tea Garden, located in Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Check out my Company Spotlight post to learn more about this beautiful estate.

Now, I am introducing you to the Preserve Green Tea from Araksa Tea Garden. This green tea is made from freshly hand-harvested Camellia Sinensis Assamica bushes, then is manually roasted, and hand-rolled. The name “Preserve” is intended to communicate the motivation of the tea masters at Araksa to make this green tea using traditional and local methods. As of this post, Araksa does not have an online tea shop, and this tea can only be purchased from their store on the garden grounds. Sounds like a great motivation to go tour the estate!

Let’s get to the review…

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Araksa Preserve Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from pale light yellow buds to pale dark forest green leaves. The blend consists of medium size leaf, bud, and stem fragments. There is a generous portion of bud fragments. There are a few bare stems. There are a few leaves that show a touch of oxidation, but overall the oxidation level is minimal. The leaves are rolled, and have a rather consistent size and shape overall, considering that they are hand rolled. The leaves and buds appear to be fairly young and tender. The aroma is quite fresh and powerful, with scents of brown sugar, toasted pecans, vanilla, and a touch of sweet cream.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (530 mL) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes. Two infusions were extracted from the leaves, but they could have given at least one more quality infusion.

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Araksa Preserve Green Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a pale, light gold-yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has fresh scents of lilac, vanilla, mineral, and light touches of pecan. The body is fuller than I expected, with a bright, lively character. There is a touch of astringency, and no bitterness. The taste has clean, fresh notes of lilac, mineral (wet stones), pecan, and a touch of cooked chard. The aftertaste carries the lilac and light vegetal character, and there is a fairly potent flowery essence left on the breath.

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Araksa Preserve Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves and buds are mostly a fresh forest green color, while the stems and a few of the leaves display a copper brown color, again evidencing the slight oxidation that occurred during production. Nearly all of the leaves, buds, and stems are medium size fragments. There are no unbroken or whole leaves in the mix, but there are a few unbroken, tender buds. The leaves and buds have a soft, smooth, tender texture. The aroma carries the scents of lilac and mineral, with a touch of pecan.

The Preserve Green Tea from Araksa Tea Garden provides a rejuvenating, refreshing, and uplifting green tea experience. Certainly not overwhelming on the grassy, vegetal green tea character, this tea offers a fresh floral and mineral aroma and taste that invokes thoughts of spring (we in Pittsburgh are desperately yearning for these thoughts right now). Although excellent served hot, I can imagine this would make for a thoroughly refreshing iced tea, as well. The clean environment that these leaves are grown in, and the care that goes into them during production, can be felt in the potent aromas and pure taste of this tea.

Thanks again to the management at Araksa Tea Garden for giving me an opportunity to experience the Preserve Green Tea! Cheers!

Company Spotlight: Araksa Tea Garden in Chiang Mai, Thailand

It is my sincere pleasure to introduce you to Araksa Tea Garden, located in the Mae Taeng district, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Google map below shows the location of Araksa Tea Garden.

Araksa Tea Garden is a beautiful estate consisting of 45 hectares (111 acres) of land under tea cultivation. The estate grows Camellia Sinensis Assamica tea bushes, and the current bushes are said to be 40 to 70 years old. The average elevation of the garden is 550 meters (1,800 feet) above sea level.

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Assamica Tea Bush – Photo used with ownership permission from Araksatea.com Gallery

The tea garden was originally founded in 1939, and among the first tea factories in Thailand was established. The estate began growing the Assamica tea bushes is 1941, then consisting of 20 hectares (50 acres). After some years, the garden changed ownership, and was not maintained for over two decades. Again in 2014, the ownership changed to it’s current owners, who have taken great care to restore the garden.

Due to the length of time that the garden went untouched, and because the current ownership believes in environmentally responsible farming practices, the tea bushes have not been directly exposed to chemicals for decades. Together with the elevation of the garden, the high quality soil, and filtered mountain valley water, Araksa Tea Garden is beginning to produce some very high quality teas. The garden is currently in the process of obtaining USDA Organic and EU Organic certifications.

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Fresh Picked Assamica Tea Leaves – Photo used with ownership permission from Araksatea.com Gallery

In addition to environmental responsibility, Araksa Tea Garden also focuses on social responsibility in the community. This includes buying as many resources as possible from local farmers and businesses, employing locals and providing training, rewarding employees based on skills and performance, and sponsoring teachers in mountainous areas to promote education for children in remote villages.

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Hand-harvesting Tea Leaves – Photo used with ownership permission from Araksatea.com Gallery

Currently, Araksa Tea Garden produces green tea, black tea, white tea, and herbal teas, such as lemongrass and butterfly pea. The teas are hand-picked, manually roasted, and hand-rolled. I will be posting reviews of the Preserve Green Tea, the Silk Tea, the Cha Yen Black Tea, the White Tea, and the Bluefly Herbal Tea. Yes, the Bluefly Herbal Tea is interesting enough to warrant a review. Even my six year old son loved the Bluefly Herbal Tea. As of this post, Araksa only sells their products in their brick-and-mortar tea shop, so I feel quite fortunate to have an opportunity to try these teas.

Araksa Tea Garden offers guided, hands-on tours of the estate, which demonstrates how leaves are grown, harvested, and processed. They also offer a beautiful setting for business or personal events.

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Looks Like a Beautiful Place to Enjoy Some Great Tea! – Photo used with ownership permission from Araksatea.com Gallery

You can keep up-to-date on all things Araksa by following them on Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you for taking your time to learn more about the Araksa Tea Garden. I hope to post a review of the Preserve Green Tea tomorrow. Many thanks to the management at Araksa for their generosity in sending the samples. I am truly looking forward to experiencing these unique teas!

#12 Bai Hao Green Tea From The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership

What’s in my cup today (as the trendy marketing phrase goes)? Something unique and special from my favorite small tea farm in Thailand, The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership.  Their website gives some interesting information on the history of this tea farm prior to the cultivation of tea, so check it out! There are also some nice photos in their gallery.

Be sure to check them out on Facebook, also, where they regularly post beautiful photos of their tea fields, and interesting videos of their oolong and green teas being processed.

This #12 Bai Hao Green Tea is a new experimental product for The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership. While they do also make a green tea called Jade Green, which can be purchased here, the Bai Hao product uses only the first young leaf and young bud pluck. The Jade Green uses the two leaf and bud pluck. I reviewed the Jade Green Tea a few years ago. A photo of the canister that the Jade Green Tea comes in is below. With the difference in plucking standard, I expect this Bai Hao to have a more delicate character than the Jade Green. Both products are made using leaves harvested from TTES#12 (Jin Xuan) cultivar bushes, so again, it will be interesting to see how something as seemingly simple as a one leaf pluck difference contributes to variances in character.

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#12 Jade Green Tea – Retail Package

As for a little refresher on The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership, it is a small farm consisting of only about five acres (2 hectares) of land, only half of which is under tea cultivation. The farm sits at an altitude about 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level. The farm cultivates the TTES#17 (Qing Xin) and TTES#12 (Jin Xuan) cultivars. A Google map showing the general location of The Doi Inthanon Partnership farm is below.

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#12 Bai Hao Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal gray color, with young silver-gold buds. The color indicates that the leaves were permitted a very slight oxidation, and given a heavy roast during production. The pluck appears to be one tender leaf and a bud still attached to the shoot. There are few broken or detached fragments, and no bare stems. The leaves are hand-rolled, as indicated by the “loose” appearance, and variation in the shape of the finished leaves. The aroma is very attractive, with a dominant scent of chocolate that reminds me of chocolate covered strawberries, and a touch of dry cut grass.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 240 ml (about 8 ounces) bizen-ware kyusu teapot. The leaves were infused in 175°F (80°C) water for 30 seconds on the first infusion, with 15 seconds added to each subsequent infusion.

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#12 Bai Hao Green Tea – 1st Infusion Liquid

The liquid has a pale yellow-gold color, which deepens significantly between infusions two through four. The aroma has scents of lotus flower, wet stones, cooked celery and cooked collard greens. The body is medium, with a creamy, smooth texture. The texture evolves into a more broth-like character with subsequent infusions. There is a mild astringency. The taste has notes that perfectly reflect the aroma, consisting of lotus flower, wet stones, cooked celery and collard greens, and a touch of fresh grass. The aftertaste carries the mineral and grassy notes, and evolves into a lingering floral essence in the mouth.

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#12 Bai Hao Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a mostly uniform forest green color, with a slight oxidation showing through on many of the leaves. The pluck consists mostly of one tender leaf and bud, but there are few with a second leaf attached. Almost all of the leaves are fully intact, unbroken, and attached to the shoot along with the bud. There are very few detached, broken leaves in the mix, indicating a high level of care being taken while handling the leaves during the harvesting and processing stages. There are no bare stems. The tender young leaves are rather long and narrow for the TTES#12 cultivar, although the age may explain the lack of broad width. The leaves are quite thin and delicate, again an indication of the young age. The aroma carries the scents of cooked celery and vegetables, wet stones, and lotus flowers.

Below is another photo I took of some individual plucks.

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#12 Bai Hao Green Tea – Infused Individual Leaves

As I have come to expect from the teas produced by The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership, the #12 Bai Hao Green Tea gave me much to appreciate in every stage of the analysis. The incredible aroma of the dry leaves was the first impression, and a very positive first impression it was. The evolution of the aroma, texture, and taste of the tea liquid from infusion to infusion offered generally the same notes with varying levels of strength. Some infusions highlighting the lotus flower notes, others highlighting the mineral notes, and others offering more of the cooked vegetables and greens. The texture evolving from a smooth, creamy texture at first to a more broth-like, savory character from the second infusion on. And, my favorite part of this review, was observing the infused leaves. These leaves truly reflected the hard work and high level of care shown to the leaves at every stage from the bush to the final product. Quality is definitely the focus of The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership.

Thanks again to The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership for sending this sample of #12 Bai Hao Green Tea! Cheers!

Jade Tea from Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership in Thailand

Today, I will be focusing on the Jade Tea from the Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership. This is an organically grown high mountain green oolong tea. The raw tea leaves are harvested from the TTES # 12 (Jin Xuan) cultivar.

The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership is located in Bhan Khun Wang, Tambon Mae Win, Amphoe Mae Wang, Chiang Mai Province, north Thailand. The garden cultivates only five acres (2.02 hectares) of land, and of these five acres, only about half is covered in tea. The cultivars grown are the TTES #17 (Qing Xin) and TTES #12 (Jin Xuan). The tea garden has an average altitude above 1,500 meters (4,900 feet). The factory focuses completely on the production of oolong and green tea. For more information on the Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership, please visit their website here.

The sample packet has been opened, and the leaves are definitely hand plucked and hand rolled. Let the journey begin…

Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Dry Leaves
Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a dark cloudy green color, with some variation in the darkness of the leaves. There is an impressive amount of silver tips. The leaves are all whole, unbroken leaves. There are no crumbs or fragments whatsoever. The pluck is mostly two tender leaves and the bud, or one tender leaf and the bud. The buds are fairly mature. The leaves are obviously hand plucked, and hand rolled. There was much attention and care put in to the plucking and processing of these leaves. The leaves appear to be pan-fired. It looks like there was a little oxidation that occurred, but certainly less than the Yun Bi oolong tea from Doi Inthanon. I would guess that the oxidation percentage would be about 10%, making this a “green oolong”, as opposed to a true green tea. The aroma has scents of fresh baked bread, toasted seeds, stewed peaches, molasses or brown sugar, and light grass. The aroma seems to jump right out of the packet.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 175° (75°C). Infuse the leaves for 1:30 to 2:00 minutes for the first infusion. Expect at least three or four quality infusions out the same serving of leaves. Decrease the infusion time on the second infusion to 1:00 to 1:30 minutes, then add 15 to 30 seconds to each additional infusion.

Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infusion
Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light yellowish-jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of toasted seeds, steamed leafy green vegetables, light peach, light brown sugar, and light valley flowers. The body is medium, with a smooth, almost brothy texture. The taste has notes of toasted seeds, steamed leafy green vegetables, valley flowers, light wood, and light peach. There is a mild astringency, and no bitterness. The aftertaste leans to the grassy and steamed vegetable notes, but the essence left on the breath is pleasantly floral.

Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infused Leaves
Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a perfectly uniform fresh light forest green color. I am still guessing the oxidation level to be about 10%. All the leaves and buds are whole and unbroken. There is not a single broken piece, fragment, or crumb in the sample! The pluck is either two fine leaves and a bud, or one fine leaf and a bud. The leaves are quite small and fine, with a soft, thin texture. The buds are fairly mature, with an average length of about 0.8 of an inch (20 mm). The uniformity of the size of the leaves and buds is very impressive. The aroma has scents of toasted seeds, valley flowers, light stewed peach, light wood, and cooked leafy green vegetables. Below is an extra photo of some of the individual infused leaves.

Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infused Leaves Closeup
Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infused Leaves Closeup

Interestingly, I did not sense any of the cream or milk characteristics that the Jin Xuan (TTES # 12) cultivar is renowned for providing. Not that this fact took away any of the pleasure I had in trying this tea, but it is an observation with this Jade Tea, as well as the Yun Bi Tea, which was also produced from the leaves of the Jin Xuan cultivar. With that being said, this tea had much to offer! The beautiful, masterfully cared for appearance of the dry leaves, the bright and lively color of the infusion, and the uniformity and wholeness of the infused leaves, were all very visually impressive! As noted earlier, the aroma of the dry leaves jumps out of the package. The tea itself has a great energy, and a satisfying texture. The taste was dominant with toasted seeds and steamed leafy green vegetables, providing a healthy taste that makes your body feel happier with each sip. This is another great product from Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership!

I am sad to say that I have only one product from Doi Inthanon left to review. That is the Luan Tze oolong. Thanks to Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership for providing these impressive samples! Cheers!