Which is your favorite tea? Which tea do you reach for when you need to relax? Celebrate? Reflect? Give yourself a hug? For some readers, there might be a different tea for each of those important events. Some of the more eclectic tea drinkers out there “play the field” so to speak, moving between green, white, oolong, blends, and black teas equally.
For me, one tea reigns: Hattialli Golden Lion. I am told that this tea is one of the most mimicked – and mislabeled – teas of all time. I’m pretty certain that the Hattialli I am drinking is the genuine article because I purchase it directly from the source. This was the first black whole leaf tea I purchased – called Hattialli Golden Lion’s Paw back in 2007. I can still recall the absolute delight – and awe – when I took my first sip. After a lifetime of Lipton, I was flabbergasted that black tea could taste so mellow, so perfect, so “round.”
Dry, the leaf is golden brown. The individual leaves are between one-half and one inch in length and very slender. When pinched, the leaves give a bit; they are not dry and they are not brittle. The odor of the leaves is slightly sweet, earthy, harvest-fresh.
Using water heated to 208 degrees, steeped for three minutes, the brew is a perfect golden amber and clear. Holding my nose over the cup, I breathe in the spirit of Assam: history, hope, and healing. Impatiently, I sip until the brew is cool enough to gulp. I love the feeling a mouth full of good tea gives me: complete and whole and round. I gulp the rest of the cup and steep the leaves again for four minutes. The second steep is considered better than the first in many circles, because the tea has had time to open up and release its true flavor. Again, I sip until I can gulp. A third steep is prepared, adding a minute. The tea doesn’t lose its perfect chestnut color through these steepings, nor does the flavor wane.
The wet leaves are whole, not cut or torn. The color is uniform. There is no “mud” from broken leaves or tea dust. The leaves look so good at this point that I often steep a fourth and fifth time, enjoying each thoroughly.
Hattialli is my favorite black tea. It was my first whole leaf black tea. It is the tea I drank on the morning of my 29th wedding anniversary. It is the tea the family drank at our Thanksgiving celebration, perfect with the huckleberry upside down cake served for dessert. It is the tea I am sipping right now – to be gulped as soon as it cools!
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Fourth in a series of five posts on the best teas of India.
Images provided by the author.