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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Suoi Giang Special Green Tea from Yen Bai Province in Vietnam

It is generally accepted that the tea bush originated in the areas of southwest China (Yunnan), northwest Vietnam (Tay Bac), and northeast Laos (Phongsaly). To this day, these areas are known for the old tea trees that naturally flourish in the forests. Suoi Giang rests in the northern mountains of Yen Bai Province in Vietnam. This area also has an impressive forest that holds many old (and presumably wild) tea trees.

The natural environment in Suoi Giang is so perfect for the tea trees that the people who manage and watch the tea trees in the this forest need to do nothing more than add natural manure to maintain the trees. No irrigation and no shading is required. Yet, the clean and natural green teas that are produced using these old tea trees is still relatively unknown to Western tea drinkers. The reason is a shortage of workers to pick the leaves, and certainly not the quality of the teas themselves.

Let’s give some due fair analysis and respect to the work of nature in caring for the tea trees in Suoi Giang, and the Hmong workers who pluck these clean tea leaves. The sample packet has been opened, and an earthy, clean aroma is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Dry Leaves
Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a light to dark faded green color. The pluck is two leaves and a very small bud. The leaves consist of large fragments, and presumably many whole leaves with the stem intact. The leaves appear to be larger in size than most more common green teas. There are also a few bare stems of considerable size and thickness, like a matchstick. The leaves are rolled, and many are curled. The leaves are very dry, and crack easily and cleanly. The aroma has scents of light grass, light brown sugar, light earth, and very light dried fruit.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a porcelain tea infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 185°F (80°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home brewing is to use three grams of dry leaves for every 6 to 8 ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 175°F (75°C). Steep the leaves for 1:30 minutes.

Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Infusion
Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a golden-yellow color with a slight greenish tint, clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of grass, mineral (earth), light dried fruit, and light wet wood. The body was medium, with a round texture. The taste had notes of mineral (wet stone), grass, light marine, light wood, and very light flowers. The aftertaste is a combination of grass and mineral, and a flowery essence is left on the breath. All things considered, this Suoi Giang green tea reminds me of a sheng pu’er tea more than a typical green tea.

Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Infused Leaves
Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Infused Leaves

The wet leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color. Some leaves show signs of tea mosquito attacks, with small round black marks. The leaves are all large fragments or whole leaves. The larger leaves measure 2.5 to 3 inches (63 to 76 mm) in length. The pluck is two leaves and a very small bud. There are a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a soft, smooth texture. The aroma has scents of mineral, grass, earth, and light flowers.

Of the green teas that I have tried from the various regions of Vietnam, I will say that this has been among the best. The fact that it reminds me more of a sheng pu’er than a typical green tea has much to do with that opinion. The taste is clean and natural, with a dominant mineral character. The leaves also withstood three infusions that all produced very good quality cups. The price of this tea is relatively low at the moment, which makes it a great time to find and try it! Unfortunately, I cannot find a tea shop via Google search in North America that offers this tea. If someone knows of one, let me know and I will revise this posting with the shop’s website address.