Running for Kenyan Gold

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This has unofficially become “Kenya Week” here at my lazy ol’ tea blog. It wasn’t intentional, but given that I have three Kenyan teas to notch off, it seemed only fitting that I theme a week around them. Today’s steep is a tea I actually received before the Purple Tea of Kenya. The purveyor of Phoenix Tea caught wind of my love for teas with the word “Gold” in them and (basically) said, “You ain’t tried nothin’ yet.”

Only…more eloquently, of course.

Royal Gold Safari was a “tribute tea” that was developed in honor of Professor Wangari Muta Maathi. She was the first African woman (an environmentalist) to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Also to her credit was being the first East or Central African woman to earn a doctorate.

Mooched from the Nobel Prize site

Mooched from the Nobel Prize site

This – like the Purble Tea I tried – was sourced from wholesaler, Royal Tea of Kenya. What I found funny was that it wasn’t listed among the available products on the RTK site. My only guess for this was that it was a rare tippy black tea only handed out for connoisseur-related consideration. Heck if I know. Not sure I’d call myself a connoisseur, but I know my gold teas…and this was one fine specimen.

On appearance, it looked like a Yunnan Jin Cha. The batch was mostly gold-tipped, curly leaves interspersed with the occasional brown-black pieces. The aroma wafting from the bag was peppery, sweet and caramel-like. On a blind whiff, I wouldn’t have been able to tell it apart from its distant Yunnan cousin. If there was one key difference in the fragrance, it was the berry-like lean – more like a greener oolong.

(Sidenote: I even had my brother/roommate smell it. His exact reply was, “It smells like Fruit Loops.” Well put.)

I couldn’t find any brewing instructions on the Phoenix Tea page or the RTK site. Best bet for Yunnan Golds was a three-minute steep in 195F-ish (almost boiled) water – 1 heaping teaspoon in 8oz. It was a little difficult to measure out just a teaspoon with how long these leaves were; the attempt came out looking more like a tablespoon. However, I thought it turned out right.

The liquor brewed to a…well…no other way to put it. It brewed GOLD! Bright, shiny, dazzling gold. It was a very light – and very bright – black tea. That same berry-sweet aroma remained with the liquid form, but not quite as strong. It was the flavor that was really surprising, though. The mouth feel was lighter than a Yunnan Gold – not as bold of a nectarine presence – but it possessed a floral introduction with a buttery after-effect. It was like drinking a Ceylon oolong (although I’ve never tried one). In fact, everything about this first infusion was very oolong-ish. I would even say close to a Dan Cong in character.

A second infusion at a full five minutes turned up an amber-colored brew with a stronger, honeyed-apple aroma. The taste was crisper, not quite as creamy, yet the same fruit-sweet savoriness remained. It took an uncontrolled brew-beating and still turned out wonderful – a telling trait of a burly black tea.

I’m not quite sure this surpasses the best Yunnan Golds I’ve tried. And, believe me, I’ve had a lot of those. But the experience this offers up is something quite unique. If this blog is proof of anything, it’s that I treasure unique teas. This is a fantastic tippy tribute tea if ever there was one.

To purchase Phoenix Tea Shop’s Royal Gold Safari, go HERE.

14 Comments

  1. Avatar of butikiteas butikiteas says:

    It might not be on Royal Tea of Kenya’s site yet because it is quite new. I had asked RTK for a recommended steep info and I vaguely remember Joy saying a temp of 180F for a longer time of 5 minutes and 1 teaspoon of tea or at least I am pretty sure that is what she said. I’ve found 195F 2 1/2 – 3 minutes with 1 1/2 teaspoons of tea for 8oz of water to be perfect.

    1. Ah, good. Then my guess was somewhat correct. Thanks for the heads up. Believe it or not, I did it for a third infusion…and completely thought I was brewing it. That was for about a half-hour. It barely took on any astringency. Strong li’l bugger.

      1. Avatar of butikiteas butikiteas says:

        Great guess. Wow for 30 minutes, that’s impressive. I’m not sure why it is but whenever I read “believe it or not” I can’t help starting to hum “I’m walking on air”. Get’s in my head every time. Doh!

        1. “Great American Hero” = Classic. Even if it did have William Katt.

    2. Avatar of butikiteas butikiteas says:

      Ok, I found the original notes. The recommended brew instructions were: 1 level teaspoon, 180F, 3 minutes.

  2. Cinnabar says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for such a thorough write-up of your experience. This is a tea that I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by.

    I go back and forth about whether we should provide brewing instructions with our teas or not. My inclination is to omit them since I never pay any attention to anyone else’s, but we’ve talked about putting together a general guide for people to use. In the case of Royal Golden Safari I brew it just like a Yunnan Hong Cha (full boil, 3-4 minutes) since – as you pointed out – its characteristics are so similar.

    1. I’d say you can’t go wrong with a general brewing page just so folks can springboard from it. You don’t have to do it with each individual tea. Everybody has different preferences. For instance, I don’t like to brew black teas for five minutes. I do ‘em at three.

      1. Cinnabar says:

        Thanks for the feedback. I think you’re right about general instructions being useful.

        I don’t brew black teas for more than 3-4 minutes either, unless I forget them.

        1. I actually forgot Infusion #3 with this one. Still turned out good. :-)

      2. Avatar of jackie jackie says:

        Simple brewing instructions are a good idea I think. I brew black tea from between 2.5 – 4 mins, full boil. Generally, I don’t like re-steeping black teas though. I don’t find they improve, they just weaken.
        By the way @lazyliteratus you mentioned:
        “It was like drinking a Ceylon oolong…if Sri Lanka did that sort of thing.”
        Sri Lanka does do “such a thing”. Here’s a link to pics of Dilmah “Presenting the First Ceylon Souchong and the First Ceylon Oolong” in 2010
        http://sv-se.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.401629210414.179116.109030695414&type=1
        and another link to a company here selling some. Disclaimer: I don’t know the company at all.

        1. Holy heck! I want some of that! Guess I’ll have to add it to the unique “Tea WANT!” list.

        2. I amended the statement in light of Google-ish evidence that supports the Ceylon oolong existence.

  3. Avatar of jopj jopj says:

    Thanks for both your posts. As life would have it I just had a conversation with an acquaintance who will be visiting Africa next week. Of course our conversation became “tea” focused. I shared with her what I took away from your last post now she will be in search of Purple tea while she is there. Thank you

    1. Ooooooh, lucky! You’ll be getting it straight from the source. I’m just a wee bit jealous.

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