Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Iran So Far for…Tea

Some time ago, I made a necessary pit stop to The Jasmine Pearl, a teashop owned by a very nice couple in Northeast Portland. I had been in before, and they were one of the few places I could pick up Yunnan-grown “Golden Needles” at a decent price. It was the perfect black tea, the shop was perfectly close, and I was perfectly broke; it worked itself out.

While conversing with the owners over a cup of GABA oolong, they made mention of a friend in Iran who was bringing back some Persian-grown tea. I thought they had said “pearls tea” at first. My ears burned when they corrected me. My “Tea WANT!” list wasn’t entirely in dire need of new additions, but the idea of tea from a growing region I wasn’t familiar with peaked my interest. Up to that point, all I knew about Persian tea was the way they served it – steeped in enough sugar to make a Southern belle blush.


When I returned home, I immediately went to digging up information about Iran’s tea history. My occidental notions of a backward country in the middle of the desert surrounded by rugs and dervishes were “a tad” inaccurate. Iran actually had a rather rich tea history, thanks to its close proximity to China – one that pre-dated European interest by a good 200 years. The town of Lahijan in the north even had their own Robert Fortune-type character. The biggest irony was that he stole seedlings from the British in India…who – in turn – had originally stolen from the Chinese.

Cultivation in Gilan province began roughly around 1900, while the first modern tea factory was built some thirty-ish years later. To this day, Iran alone produces 60,000 tons of black tea a year. The biggest tragedy, though, is that the U.S. sees nary a leaf of it. If it isn’t readily apparent to you, fair reader, relations between the United States and Iran are piss-poor at best. Reasons for this are quite valid, and I won’t go into any of that here. This is a tea blog, not a political soapbox.

It’s not entirely impossible to acquire Iranian-grown tea as an American, but chances are one would have to turn to an international site. And strong though my tea itch was, international shipping charges did much to quell the urge. That, however, didn’t stop me from posting several whiny forum queries wondering where I could acquire some without having to pound at an embargo.

Enter TeaGeek.net. Yet again.

Again, Michael J. Coffey – that sleuth of the steep – chimed in with a proverbial, “I got what’choo NEED!” (Yes, I can even hear him pounding the pavement with a pimp cane while saying that.)

Available exclusively to TeaGeek members was a tea gained through mysterious methods dubbed “Treasure of Persia”. He mentioned he’d received it in an unnamed plastic bag, and the route used to obtain it made some drug deals pale by comparison. That made this one-off sample all the more interesting.

The leaves for this were jet black, long, wide, and oozing with malt-scent. The aroma reminded me of chocolate covered berries mixed with dry smoke. In appearance, they resembled another TeaGeek score – the old-woman-handmade Georgian tea I had. They even smelled alike. For a moment there, I wondered if a fast one had been pulled on us. On close inspection, though, there were subtle differences. The cut of the Persian leaves were smaller, the rolling method seemed different, and the leaves weren’t as tippy as the Georgian. Strikingly similar, but still different beasts.

There weren’t any established brewing instructions for this, so I had to go with what I was familiar with. Like the Georgian, this looked strong enough to take a four-minute steep, but I wasn’t sure what leaf amount to use. I went balls-in with a tablespoon-worth steeped in 8oz of boiling water for the allotted four.

The result was an amber-ish liquor with a dry and smoky nose, not unlike Russian Caravan or a subtle Taiwanese Lapsang Souchong. They certainly had my attention with whiff alone. On taste, the impression shifted ever-so-awesomely to a sip with a nutty forefront. That was quickly followed up with a fruity segue to a malty middle. As far as the finish was concerned, it was all Cavendish smokiness that tapered off handsomely.

Do you know how this tea made me feel? Like I was sitting on a weather-worn rock bedazzled in jewels, silks, and gold-trimmed whatevers while Disney-esque Jasmine-like maidens fanned large feathers at me. Oh, and there was an elephant for shade because…well…all Persian fantasies require an elephant. This didn’t even need to be sweetened to death in the typical Persian tea style, but I’m sure the approach would work wonders. A very outstanding cup of U.S.-embargoed hotness.

For more information from the TeaGeek, go HERE.

The inspiration for the “punny” title of this blog can be found HERE. Don’t watch if you have no sense of humor.

lazyliteratus

Tea blogger, professional cleaner of toilets, amateur people watcher.

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25 Comments

  1. Lazy, seeing that drinking this tea made you feel surrounded by “Disney-esque Jasmine-like maidens” fanning feathery things, I fear this tea is laced with a little extra something.
    Actually looking at how Michael’s dressed in that pic, I know you’re all tripping while sipping. And no, don’t try and tell me it’s not him πŸ˜›

    Either way, did you know that Iran is the fifth largest importer of tea? 75,000 tons of tea worth $280 million each year!
    http://www.zawya.com/story.cfm/sidZAWYA20110621051411/Iran_Worlds_Fifth_Tea_Importer

    I guess their imports largely come from India. I found an older article from 2009 that talks more about this:

    http://www.financialexpress.com/news/irans-import-curbs-hurt-indian-tea-sector/405882/

    Anyway, really enjoyed your post and the pics were brilliant. That poor blushing maiden…

    • Truth be told, I typed in “geek pimp” in Google Images..and that’s what came up. How could I not use it?

      And, no, I didn’t know that Iran imported that much tea. I knew they drank a lot of it, though. The establishment of their own growing region was the way to curb imports. Alas, their tea industry has been under fire due to political upheaval, much like Russia’s Dagomys region.

  2. Ha! Yellow is SO not my color. However, if I did get a pimp cane, I would want it to be a light saber like his.

    Glad you liked the tea–I thought they had a lot in common, too.

    And for you, or anyone else that’s wondering, I don’t usually give brewing instructions because people might think that’s the “right” way to brew a tea. I’d rather see what colors/flavors/aromas you get out of the tea however you brew it, and if you like them. If you don’t, we can see how our brewing styles differ and what difference that makes in what you get in the cup. Much more experimental!

    • I figured you didn’t include brewing instructions for that very reason. It is nice to have a template in which to bounce off of, though. Luckily, this stuff is pretty resilient.

      And I could totally see you in yellow.

  3. πŸ˜† Love the Ahmadinejad video!

    As a taxman, I’m going to turn a blind eye to the possibly-questionable, “maybe duty-free” tea smuggling going on here. πŸ™‚

    j/k I love reading about the things that you’ve been trying from TeaGeek lately! You guys remind me of my Italian friends and their Cuban cigars. πŸ˜†

    • It’s smuggling in the “Star Wars” sense. Just look at it that way. K? *heh*

      I’ve had a Cuban cigar. Not impressed.

      • Dang! I meant to say “descent” not “decent”… should have known from the video game…

        ENGLISH TEACHER GRANDFATHER = EMBARRASSED ABOUT GRAMMAR AND SPELLING ERRORS…

      • Ron Reagan would be turning in his grave if he heard that you were a “Star Wars Smuggler”.

        I don’t know what kind of Amoorican you are, but we take missile defense seriously round these parts!

        Yeah, I can pass on a Cuban cigar but never on a Cuban sandwich! πŸ˜‰

  4. Strange. Their tea interest started 200 years earlier but they stole the tea seedlings from the British in India…
    They never tried to steal it from China in all these years?

    And again I found one in Le Palais des ThΓ©s.

    • I know! That is strange. I think they also needed to learn the practice of cultivation, too. And it was much easier to infiltrate India. I dunno. Someone needs to write a book about that guy…if there isn’t already one.

      And Le Palais des ThΓ©s was one of the international places I found it, too.

  5. *whispers* Where can I get me an outfit like that? That’s some serious stylin’.

  6. You mean you CAN’T get an outfit like that in Germany?!

    I don’t believe it.

  7. Wavybend

    Mariage Freres also has a Persian tea as well.

    http://www.mariagefreres.com/boutique/UK/ft+elbourz+T441.html

    I’d love to give it a try some time. I’ll have to mark it in my copy of the menu. It’s going to be wonderful to be able to frequent their salon in Kobe!

  8. I thought I saw something like that hanging out of your closet when we visited you Ken?

  9. Thought you should know… This post is third on google when you search for “Tea themed pimp cane” (don’t ask), so kudos to you my friend… πŸ™‚

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