Himalayan Treasures: Four Teas From Ketlee

From Ketlee’s humble beginnings in 2015, they’ve provided a spectrum of tea experiences through their dynamic portfolio. My relationship with Indian tea is still a personal focus as I move through adjacent regions, and so I was thrilled to accept a handful of teas to reflect upon and further my understanding. My first experience with Ketlee was their 2019 Gushu Puer gathered from a group buy from Andrew of Liquid Proust Teas last year. Since then, they’ve been on my radar. Join me as I taste four options and share my thoughts!





2020 Spring Wild White Tea

DETAILS
Season: Spring 2020
Cultivar: Wild assamica trees
Origin: Manipur, India
Picking/Processing: Hand-rolled to shape, sun-dried
Elevation: ~900-1000m

MY EXPERIENCE

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 4g for 100 mL
Starting Temp – 85°C
Infusion time(s) – 20 sec. +10

Eyes Dry: Blue-green and silvery buds and leaves, dense and dark
Nose Dry: Hay, yolk, cane sugar
Nose Wet: Cane sugar, ivy, forest flowers
Eyes Liquor: Forest honey amber core with rose ring
Mouth Texture: Clean, yinzhen texture
Mouth Taste: Melon, kiwii, dragonfruit, birch wood, coriander spice
Nose Cup: Raw sugar
Mouth Finish: Slightly dry with honey undertones, silky
Eyes Wet: Pale-green buds with purple gradient stems.
Body Sensation: Grounded in gentleness

Immediate thoughts: This tea felt the most familiar to me as I’m no stranger to the range of white teas fostered through China, Japan, Taiwan, and Nepal. That being said, it’s unlike anything I’ve tasted before! There’s a warm feeling similar to Baihao Yinzhen but with an herbaceous quality such as White Orchard, and melon sweetness like Cultivar 21 White. This tea is bold and holds the freshness of Spring, leading me to use the little I have left for cold-brew!



2020 Spring Wild Gushu Maocha

DETAILS
Season: Spring 2020
Cultivar: Wild assamica trees
Origin: Manipur, India
Picking/Processing: Minimal oxidation
Elevation: ~900-1000m

MY EXPERIENCE

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 4g for 100 mL
Starting Temp – 95°C
Infusion time(s) – 20 sec. +10

Eyes Dry: Dusk with copper tones, rolled into twisted and strips
Nose Dry: Riverbed stones, lychee, rubharb
Nose Wet: Plum, berries
Eyes Liquor: Faded apricot gold
Mouth Texture: Thin to medium-bodied,
Mouth Taste: Honey, stone-fruit, mineral
Nose Cup: Wildflower honey, berry
Mouth Finish: Subtle flowery finish,
Eyes Wet: Massive leaves with green and purple tones
Body Sensation: Invigorating and sweet

Immediate thoughts: I recommend ramping up the temperature to 100°C as I gained a buttery mouthfeel and thicker texture. The large leaves hold many infusions in them and the sweetness lingers until you drink more! This year’s harvest is a wonderful follow-up to the 2019 material I previously had. Keep your eye out for this one!



2020 Wild Litsea Black Tea

DETAILS
Season: Summer 2020
Cultivar: Wild assamica trees
Origin: Manipur, India
Picking/Processing: 3+ day scenting process with litsea
Elevation: ~900-1000m

MY EXPERIENCE

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 4g for 100 mL
Starting Temp – 94°C
Infusion time(s) – 10 sec. +5

Eyes Dry:  Short, rolled and twisted chocolate brown leaves
Nose Dry: Warm laundry on the clothesline, unripe banana, slight mesquite
Nose Wet: Menthol, rose, mint, dates
Eyes Liquor: Maroon
Mouth Texture: Bright and medium-bodied with a cool breeze
Mouth Taste: Violet and komquat peel, dates, cream
Nose Cup: Dried litsea and wood
Mouth Finish: Thick and strong finish that leaves litsea permeating throughout the throat
Eyes Wet: Hazelnut brown leaves unfurled
Body Sensation: Uplifting and energizing

Immediate thoughts: Marked by sensations pulling at opposite ends, I feel a cooling freshness of violet flowers and citrus brightness. At the other end, warm wood and the creamy texture of dates. If you’re unfamiliar with what litsea is, as I was, litsea is an evergreen shrub also known as ‘mountain pepper’ 山胡椒, and provides this wild black tea a complexity that continues to change! The scenting process features litsea fruits being integrated with the leaves overnight, separated the following morning, and the leaves left to dry. This is repeated for over 3 days, making it an invigorating experience.





2021 Winter Nilgiri Oolong

DETAILS
Season: January 2021
Cultivar: Uses clonal sinensis-based cultivars developed by UPASI specific for the Nilgiri region
Origin: Coonoor, Nilgiri, India
Picking/Processing: Bud + 2-3 leaves
Elevation: ~1920 m

MY EXPERIENCE

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 4.5g for 100 mL
Starting Temp – 92°C
Infusion time(s) – 10 sec. +5

Eyes Dry: Twisted and branch-like
Nose Dry: Tomato, squash, creamy and floral
Nose Wet: Nettle, marigolds,
Eyes Liquor: daffodil yellow
Mouth Texture: Clean, slight buzzing
Mouth Taste: Floral, butter, mint
Nose Cup: Flowery
Mouth Finish: Mineral and floral finish that remains clean and crips
Eyes Wet: Elongated yellow-orange stems and green leaves
Body Sensation: Uplifting and mellow

Immediate thoughts: A beautiful surprise, this winter tea yields such a fresh taste and reminds me of a walk in a meadow full in bloom. Native grasses, weeds, and flowers are held within the aromas as it mellows the mind and invigorates the body. This tea works wonders under western-style parameters as well.



CONCLUSION

Each tea I’ve featured is quite dynamic under varying brewing parameters and exploring these without expectation has been a treat! I enjoyed the maocha brewed under hotter temperatures and the Nilgiri oolong holds well to just off the boil heat. These teas while out of the ordinary, present experimentation and a wide range of what Indian teas can offer. These four offerings are quite affordable and I look forward to purchasing more of their tea. They’ve also curated in-depth Sampler Sets, bundled for a range of explorative purposes.

Have you tried teas from Ketlee? If so, which have you tasted and what have you enjoyed?

Steep well!

– Marco

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