Vangedi Pekoe Black Tea from Amba Estate (Plucky Tea)
It’s one of those rare days that my house is quiet and clean, allowing me to devote time to a more intriguing review. This product, the Vangedi Pekoe from Amba Estate, Sri Lanka, is quite unique to Plucky Tea. Plucky Tea is the only estate in Sri Lanka that produces this style of black tea commercially. According to the Plucky Tea website, which may be found here, the estate workers in Sri Lanka tend to process teas in their home in this fashion. The people use a stone mortar, called a “vangedi”, to grind the tea leaves into coarse fragments before they undergo the oxidation and firing process. For some reason, the large estates in Sri Lanka forbid this style of production, thinking that the estate workers are somehow stealing leaves for personal consumption. A little more research is needed on my end to understand why the large estates feel this paranoia.
As I look through the samples and product descriptions from Plucky Tea, I find that the majority of products are quite different than other Sri Lankan companies offer. Of everything that I have tried, the only thing that I found to be overall “average” was the pan-fired green tea. Everything else has been very unique in at least one, and in several cases many ways. Note: I would like a second chance to review the pan-fired green tea. I get the feeling that my senses were out of sync at the time of the original review. I will give the green tea another review if and when I get the chance. Anyway, Amba Estate and Plucky Tea have some top quality and highly intriguing products, moreso than any other estate that I have found in Sri Lanka.
If you want to try the GF OP Black Tea or the OP Black Tea with Tea Flowers, I believe Tealet Teas is still offering sample packets. Their website is http://www.tealet.com.
I may have mentioned this in a previous review of a product from Amba Estate, but I really like the amount of information that they supply regarding their community and even their workers. Amba really seems to encourage strong relationships among the workers and the community. They also have some great videos up on Youtube, including one regarding this vangedi pekoe.
The packet has been opened, and a very fresh, classic black tea smell is in the air. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have shades of light brown to dark brown color. There is much variation in the size and shape of the dry leaves since they are coarsely ground into flakes. Impossible to determine the plucking standard or make any other useful visual observations. The flakes are very dry, and crumble easily. The aroma of the leaves is a bakey, almost biscuity sweet scent with malt. There is a slightly earthy hint, in a way similar to a shu puer. Considering the appearance of the dry leaves, I was interested to see if this tea could last for my usual three infusion review.
Four grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Filtered tap water was heated to 205ºF (96ºC). Leaves were infused for two minutes for the first infusion, three minutes on the second, and three minutes thirty seconds on the third infusion.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a glowing reddish-copper color, clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of malt, and very light citrus and floral (dandelion). The body is full, with a very smooth yet mouth filling texture. The taste is moderately astringent, with notes of malt, light citrus, and light floral (dandelion). The aftertaste is sweet with a modest hang time. This is what I consider to be a classic, but high quality, black tea taste. Now let’s see how this tea will be in the second infusion.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly lighter shade of reddish-copper color. The color is fuller than I expected. The aroma also lightened some, but remains quite fragrant. The body and taste were both surprisingly full, despite a slight lightening in all aspects. The taste maintained the same general characteristics, with the astringency lightening significantly between the first and second infusion. This infusion was very enjoyable, much to my surprise. It can’t possibly give another decent infusion, can it?
Again, the color lightened some, but is surprisingly full with a lighter reddish-copper color. The aroma has lightened again, but is still strong enough to enjoy. The body has lightened to medium, and the taste has lightened. However, the taste is certainly strong enough to be enjoyed. This third infusion was still better than any bagged black tea that I have had. Very impressive.
The dry leaves have a uniform dark copper color. The leaves are all small flakes. The aroma is sweet, malty, and lightly citrusy. Although I doubted this tea from the beginning, only to be proven wrong on two occasions, I still have a hard time believing that it can make a fourth infusion. I can very easily be wrong.
I have had a few black teas over the years that I would refer to as having a “classic” black tea taste, but this Vangedi Pekoe had the smoothest and most agreeable “classic” black tea taste. In fact, I could see this as being a perfect every day morning tea, as the estate workers in Sri Lanka have come to find. Although I cannot say that the complexity or general taste characteristics were outstanding or unique, the texture of this tea was definitely remarkable. I am happy to have another two kyusu loads of this Vangedi Pekoe in the sample pack, as I will be looking forward to enjoying it soon. Another success from Amba Estates and Plucky Tea. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to try a truly unique Sri Lankan black tea. The estate workers definitely know what they are doing when producing this tea. Cheers!
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