Tag Archives: Indian tea

Black tea: Ceylon FBOPFEXSP


Milk chocolate taste with light, smokey notes and a nonsense acronym attached.
Black tea » Indian* » Ceylon teas (Sri Lanka), ★★★★

This tea tastes a little harder than the softer Assam teas, especially the nutty-chocolatey Assam from Nonaipara Estate.

First, you’ll notice a milk chocolatey taste and mouthfeel. It’s pleasant and would handle lemon or milk and sugar very well. Traditional, British tea-drinkers would love this Ceylon.

Second, you’ll feel a very slight smokiness that becomes a little more evident in later brews (as the sweetness wanes). It’s not overpoweringly smokey—it’s not a smoked tea. By comparison, the smokey taste is on a similar level to that of Gunpowder Green (another unsmoked tea).

I have no clue as to what those letters in “Ceylon FBOPFEXSP” stand for. That’s not because I don’t understand the grading nomenclature, but because there is no such acronym for describing a grade of tea. Google the acronym on its own and you’ll be directed to the product page for my local tea store, T2. I’m wondering whether “Ceylon FBOPFEXSP” is just another clever marketing trick by T2. Bless them.

I would definitely buy this tea. ★★★★

* the “Indian” branch of my Tea Types 2012 chart represents teas from the Indian subcontinent (of which Sri Lanka and three Indian regions are all sub-categories). It’s geographically rational, but politically wrong. But tea trees don’t care about politics.

Black tea: Dejoo Estate Assam

Dejoo Estate Assam

Like a shot of melted Ferrero Rocher chocolate.
Black tea » Indian » Assam, ★★★★★

Wow. Hot chocolate tea!

Today, I was lucky enough to receive three single-estate Assam teas, and I’m tasting two of them side-by-side right now. I brewed identical amounts of each in identical shot-glasses with identical volumes of water. My trustworthy iPod was used as a timing device (two-minute brew; nothing added).

The first of these teas, the Dejoo Estate, tastes so good that I’ve finished it after writing just one paragraph! I can taste cocoa nibs and hints of berries in my mouth, and my tongue thinks it can feel the roughness of broken hazelnuts. This tea feels like a shot of melted Ferrero Rocher chocolate. I feel very warmed!

Dejoo Estate is regarded as one of the best in the Assam region. The perfect terroir produces a tea that’s strong without being bitter, and fruity-chocolatey without being woody or astringent. I suggest brewing this tea lightly because it’s quite strong; but you could also get away with a medium-strength brew without bringing out any tannins.

I love single-estate teas because we can find subtle differences in flavour between them. Tea-tasting trains our senses to appreciate subtle beauty in all things around us.

While I drink all my teas naked (by that, I mean without milk or sugar), I’d forgive anyone who wanted to add milk—and thus produce a “milky hot chocolate” out of this tea. Drink Dejoo in winter to feel happy and warm. Let its chocolatey taste surprise and intrigue your guests. ★★★★★

Black tea: (Masala) Chai

Masala Chai

Numbing, calming and medicinal. It’s a remedial tincture, not a tea.
Black tea » Indian » Assam, ★

This is my first time drinking “chai”. Again, I’ve abstained because the nomenclature (“chai”) is so wrong. In most Eurasian languages, “chai” (or a variation on the word) simply means “tea”, so defining “chai” as a drink that contains cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, peppercorns, star anise and milk has long perplexed me. My insistence on correct nomenclature was humiliating when I met people who knew little or nothing about tea (but drank it anyway): “Call yourself an expert? But you don’t know what ‘chai’ is? Everyone knows what chai is!”

So what is “chai”?

Here’s the answer: “chai” is a shortened form of “चाय मसाला”, or “masala chai”, which means “spiced tea” in Hindi. In English, it’s been shortened to “chai” (or, worse, the tautological “chai tea”).

  • Tea = chai (Hindi), chay (Persian), cha (Chinese)
  • Milk = latte (Italian)
  • Spiced = masala (Hindi)

I would allow “Masala Chai”, or “Indian Masala Chai”, but not “Chai” (as my tea merchant called it) when labelling this drink.

The aroma alone of Masala Chai gives me a very warming feeling. The first taste I notice is that of cloves, which tingle the tip of my tongue and then numb it. Sexy. The star anise makes me feel wholesome and warm, and the peppercorns and cardamon feel like they could cure colds and flu (if I had one). As the tea cools, a minty flavour emerges, and the tea resembles that served in Xinjiang restaurants. I’ve long been looking for that tea!

As a fan of Chinese cooking, I look at the tea and think, “this is a perfect marinade for pork belly!” In fact, the Masala in this Masala Chai is almost identical to the spice mix used in Chairman Mao’s signature dish, 红烧肉 (red-braised pork). By coincidence, the spices are also the same as Mulled Wine Spices, which can be purchased from most supermarkets for a fraction of the price of this tea. (Mix them with any Assam tea and you’ve made your own Masala Chai. Simple.)

I drank it without milk, and brewed it much lighter than most other Caucasian people would. I give Masala Chai three stars because while I would never buy it, I would gladly accept it if it were offered by somebody else. ★★