Kinnari’s ‘Golden Flame’ – ‘Golden Tips’ Artisan Arbor Tea from Xiengkhouang, Laos
‘Golden Tips’, a pure buds picking standard related to large-leaf tea trees, is the qualitative spearhead of ‘Dian Hong Cha’ teas, black arbor tea from Yunnan. This is why our partner in Laos, Kinnari Tea, has paired the pertaining Yunnanese processing technique with highest quality standards in Xiengkhouang, eastern Laos. The result is a black artisan arbor tea that is quite tempting to label as unparalleled.
Just like some other countries bordering Yunnan, Laos belongs to the genuine “cradle countries” of the tea tree. Hence, apart from fine differences in “terroir”, Xiengkhouang’s native tea trees are principally identical with those in Yunnan.
Picking and Processing
Only the large, fluffy buds of the partially several hundred years old tea trees are picked for Kinnari Tea’s Golden Flame. At this, not only the picking, but also most of the processing work is still done by hand in Xiengkhouang today. The result is a true artisan arbor tea, enabled by the combination of the local tea farmers’ generations-old experience and Kinnari Tea’s high quality standards.
Natural cultivation in biodiverse environment
Apart form the artisan processing, Xiengkhouang Golden Flame lives from the natural, biodiverse environment, in which the tea trees grow. At this, their roots, reaching meters-deep into the soil, bring to bear the terroir’s hwole wealth in the tea plant. And in the resulting tea! Because you can feel this wealth with all of your senses.
The complex fragrance evaporating from both the dry leaf material and the infusion fills any room with a sense of well-being. And like a velvety film, the liquor, reminiscent of a precious oil, coats the oral flora. “Precious…” will be your first thought manifesting as a thought.
So, our first haptic perception of Golden Flame is that of a – still almost taste-neutral – pleasant impression on our palate. Only then, the perfectly harmonious round and at the same time extremely complex taste of this black artisan arbor tea begins to unfold. At this, the initial perception of sweet cocoa and raisin must is soon followed by notes of orange peel and dried fruit. Plums, figs, dates… a universe of flavors, united and elevated to a symphony by an all-carrying sweetness that will last on the palate even long beyond drinking.
Xiengkhouang Golden Flame won’t bitter or develop any astringency even with extended infusion periods. Thus, a reasonable preparation recommendation is quite hard to conceive. However, despite the consistent temptation of higher dosing, I tend to uphold a standard of 4g tea leaves on 200 ml water with this artisan arbor tea, too.
As with other black teas, first let boiling hot water calm down (90°C). Then pour over the tea leaves spread on the tea pot bottom. After 3 minutes of steeping, a mild and soft, complex and rich taste pattern evolves. With progressing infusion time, the body increases and fills with a sense of spicyness. After that, a second infusion of equal steeping time emphasizes aromatic roast notes.
Kinnari Tea – Ecological and Social Responsibility
Tea is the greates passion of Anna and Thun, the German/Laotian operators of Kinnari Tea in Laos. This is why quality for Kinnari Tea means more than just a good leaf grade, even a lot more. Beyond the obvious properties of the tea leaf, acting responsible regarding our natural and social environment is a cornerstone of Kinnari’s quality concept. At this, goal is the highest achievable level of harmony between the company’s economic activities and all stakeholders’ interests, including nature.
Hence, paying fair prices to the actual producers in Xinghkhouang and Bolaven is only ONE manifestation of Kinnari’s quality philosophy. Beyond this, Kinnari teas come only from tea trees raised from from the seed and grown naturally. Further, Kinnari emphasizes that these tea trees grow in their natural, biodiverse environment. With this, a no-pesticides, no artificial fertilizers and no hazardous substances policy is just a mattter of course.
For detailed information about the history, background and philosphy of Kinnari Tea, please read my pertaining article in Siam Tea Blog:
Xiengkhouang – Reservoir of Wild Ancient Tea Trees in Eastern Laos
Xiengkhouang is a province in the east of Laos, not far from the border to Vietnam. Apart from the stunning landscape, what makes the mountainous region with altitudes up to 2500 meters so interesting is its wealth of ancient tea trees. In Xiengkhouang, these have been growing and propagating the natural way through their seed from time immemorial. This way, “tea gardens” have emerged that are rather reminiscent of biotopes than of agricultural production land.
The tea plants greatly benefit from the harmonious interaction of numerous types of plants, animals and insects populating their habitat. Other than with “clones” (raised from cutoffs), the roots of tea trees raised from the seed reach meters deep into the soil. This way, the plants enjoy the full natural input from their terroir. To this adds the balance prevailing in an ecosystem, paying respect to the “existential interests” of all its stakeholders. As a result, the need for artificial fertilizing and means of pest control.
Unlike the bordering Vietnam – or China – Laos does not have a national tea culture in the proper sense. Nevertheless, the picking and processing of the native tea trees’ leaves are an integral part of the local mountain tribes’ tradition. Reconciling this tradition with highest quality, environmental and social standards and complementing it with a high level of professional competence is the secret of Kinnari Tea.