Today’s tasting is a real treat: Lychee Black. One of my dear tea friends, Erica at Tea Time, Me Time, sent me this sample a few weeks ago. Now if you’re like me, your first thought may be “what is lychee?”
Lychee is a tropical evergreen tree that is native to Fujian and Guangdong provinces in China. The tree produces a red, fleshy fruit that is used in many different desert dishes. The outside of this fruit appears rough in texture and is inedible; the inside has a large black seed that is surrounded by a slightly opaque-white flesh (the pictures online remind me of the consistency of a jellyfish). Typically the fruit is eaten fresh as preservation techniques, like canning, tend to lose the sweet floral like fragrance.
I haven’t been able to find the specific way that this Chinese black tea is created, but the way the ingredients are listed on the package lead me to wonder if it is by spraying the flavor onto the leaves (a popular technique used today). What I find more interesting is the origins of this fruit flavored tea date back to the Tang Dynasty where the tea leaves and the fruit were smoked together, allowing the sweet fruit flavor to infuse in the leaves. It was popular with the emperor then and has remained popular today.
Erica procured this amazing tea from Teavivre. Upon opening your package you’ll be hit with the intoxicating sweet scent of the lychee. The leaves are a small and thin, dark brown with a slight twist to them.
Obviously, I got a little excited about trying this tea and took the picture after I ripped the package open. This sample packaging actually holds several cups worth of the tea. I merely wish it was resealable.
The package direction suggest you steep this tea for 2 to 5 min at 195 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a slightly cooler than most black teas (which can take the full boiling point). I couldn’t find any research to support the lower temperature, but I won’t argue with what a tea grower says to be the best way to brew his tea.
The resulting liquor is medium bold in body, with a beautiful dark caramel / copper color. The wet leaves offered a clean, fresh aroma that had a hint of fruity stone-fruit type of sweetness (this is the lychee flavor) that is vaguely reminiscent of apricot. As the leaves cool you may also pick up a few sniffs of a vegetal aroma (from the tea itself).
The flavors of this tea are a bit more complex than what I was anticipating. It has only a mild stone-fruit suggestion (some tasters have said it’s grape-like, but I don’t taste anything like grape) with a hint of vegetal tones that balance well with the fruit. Where this tea really shines is in the finish: extremely smooth with an almost soft, delicate flavor.
Honestly, this tea has flavors that I’ve never smelled or tasted in all my days. As a result, I don’t have a single cell in my body that knows that to do with these flavors. I knew immediately that I liked it, but in several tastings since, I have yet to wrap my brain around this amazingly smooth and complex tea.
That’s part of the fun of life. New experiences, good and not so good, happen. Simple things, like trying a new restaurant, or even reading something outside of your normal genre, could easily spark a moment where your brain has to pause to really think about what you’ve just experienced and come to a formal resolution. Those moments where you don’t just instinctively react can be small opportunities to rethink what you’ve always taken for granted or believed without cause.