Green tea in Thailand

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Green tea is a universal beverage, and Thais have their own traditional version.

The first time I tasted it was at a beautiful estate near Chiang Mai. They are innovating in black teas, but still keeping a part of their production “traditional”, meaning like it was always done, as a respect for ancestors. So the traditional green tea in Thailand is hand roasted – just like most Chinese green teas – and slightly rolled in spirals. This process (the roasting) has for purpose to kill the enzyme that would otherwise oxidize the tea, turning it into a black tea. There is a fine line to aim for while doing so, because not roasting enough will preserve the enzyme and allow for early oxydation and decay of the green tea, while roasting it too much will leave a heavy burnt taste. From what I understand, Thais don’t mind the latter. I do, and so for me this version of green tea was never appealing. Especially added to the fact that big Assamica leafs are used, which are ofter astringent or bitter.

Traditional Thai green tea has always been “interesting”, but a pass for me.

Until one rainy day.

I was on my way to Pai to catch up with some friends and head to Mae Hong Son province to explore a new tea region, when stopped to say hi to Dara, the producer of the Wild Oolong you can find here. The first tea I added to the shop a couple of months ago.

She welcomed me with a hot tea, and I was chocked. “Is this Chinese tea?” I asked. She said, almost offended “Mai chai! (no!) It’s my last batch of green tea!”

It was very fragrant, like a fresh Chinese green tea is. Smelling like spring flowers, freshly cut grass, baby spinach and melting butter…a kind of smell I have a soft spot for. And the taste was there too! Round and soft, full without being harsh. I was sold, and ordered a couple kilos.

It is made from wild Camellia Assamica leaves. I saw the trees myself through a walk in the forest where they do the picking. Some trees and impressively big. Others are bushy, but they are all there naturally, it is not a plantation, and no fertilizer is used. They are simply a piece of the jungle puzzle. Dara and her team take extra care of the green tea process. It is her most expensive product, and for good reasons. I saw how they wither and roast it. Contrary to the black tea witch is made in big batches and gets broken up in the process, the green tea is carefully laid down without piling up, and efforts are made to gently roll the leafs without breaking them.

The leafs of Dara’s green tea are smaller than others I have seen, because she chooses only buds and 2 first leafs. It is the most delicate green tea I tasted in Thailand. Although keep in mind, this still is wild Camellia Assamica, and always has the potential for a bitter end if steeped too long.

I called it “Wild Green”.

Give it a try here.

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