Just when I thought I had finished reviewing all of the interesting teas that arrived in the sample package from Vietnam months ago, my reorganization of samples overturned the most expensive price per kilogram green tea that I had not previously noticed at all. Today’s review will focus on the Phu Tho Green Tea.
Phu Tho Province is located in the center of northern Vietnam. Beautiful photos from the province show mist covered and steep hillsides covered in tea bushes. However, this province is among the poorest in Vietnam, with the lowest incomes being about USD $6 per month for each worker in a given household. That is unbelievable. Reading a stat like this makes me feel sick that I have ever complained about my income, even given the obvious and drastic differences in economies and cost-of-living between rural Vietnam to urban Pittsburgh.
Anyway, tea growing is a very important aspect of the economy of the Phu Tho Province. Being located in a subtropical monsoon region, this is a perfect place to grow quality tea.
The sample packet has been opened, and one can easily recognize that this is hand-rolled tea. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a green to dark green color, with a nice amount of dry silver buds. The leaves are mostly whole, with some being large fragments. Pluck shows two leaves and a bud, many with the stem intact. The leaves are hand rolled, with an impressive level of precision and uniformity. There are no bare stems in the mix. The buds are silver, but do not have any tangible downy-like hairs. The smell has scents of roses, sweet grass, and lighter scents of smoke and toasted nuts.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.
My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 175°F (75°C). Steep the leaves for a maximum of 2:00 minutes. Expect three quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a light golden-yellow color with a slight jade tint, clear and transparent. The aroma has notes of sweet grass, toasted nuts, roses, mineral (metal iron), and light smoke. The body surprisingly is a hearty medium, with a full, round texture. There is an intermediate level of astringency. The taste has notes of grass, roses, toasted nuts, mineral (metal iron), light smoke, light wood, and light asparagus as the liquor cools. The aftertaste carries the grass and mineral notes, slowly developing into a rose essence.
The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color, with the stems being a greenish-brown. There is an impressive number of whole leaves and buds with stems intact. The remainder of the leaves are all large fragments. The leaves are long and fairly narrow, with the longest leaf measuring under 1.5 inches (38 mm). The leaves have fine sawtooth-like edges, and a smooth, soft, fine texture. The smell has scents of roses, sweet grass, toasted nuts, mineral, and steamed vegetable.
The Pho Tho Green Tea is definitely the best overall quality green tea that I have tried from Vietnam. The quality of production was well above and beyond that of the six or seven other green teas from Vietnam that were included in the sample box. The taste was very consistent through three infusions. In fact, I enjoyed the second and third infusions more than the first. The taste seemed to come to a nice balance in the second and third infusions. The mineral (metal iron) taste was interesting, and I cannot say that I was ever able to pick out the exact metal that I have tasted, but this was definitely iron. Perhaps cast iron pans are used during production? This was the closest thing to “artisan” tea that I have found in the box of samples from Vietnam.