2019 Ashes of the Phoenix - Guava-Smoked Black Tea
Satemwa Estate – Thyolo, Shire Highlands, Malawi
The 2019 Ashes of the Phoenix is a soft, smooth Malawian black tea, contrasting the traditional harshness of most African black teas, with all the classic earthy, malty notes, but it has a strong sweet-ish smoke undertone.
A perfect starter tea for anyone curious about lapsang souchong, the Ashes of the Phoenix is a great black tea with a low smoke tone. While in practice it tastes very little like a lapsang, it does contain a light smoky undertone perfect for adjustment, and perfect for learning whether smoked tea is right for you.
At its core, the Ashes is a Malawian black tea. Like most African black teas, it is made with Assamica leaf, giving it a nice malty, earthy flavor. The African terroir also gives it a slightly more tannic flavor that comes through in droves when they are run through a CTC process (cut-tear-curl). This is whole-leaf, which means the astringency is drastically lowered. It comes out fairly smooth with those potent earthy flavors and light malty tones, and the Ashes itself comes with very soft, delicate smoky flavors.
Lapsang Souchong is made by an involved process of withering the leaves over a pine bough fire, pressing them into a wooden barrel covered in cloth, oxidizing, then smoked in bamboo baskets over another pine bough fire. The Ashes is made just like any other Malawian black tea, that is to say picked, rolled slightly, withered, and air-dried. However, during the air-drying process, they gently smoke the leaves with native Malawian guava wood to assist in the drying process. The fact that they are not smoke-withered or fully smoke-dried means the smoke comes out much lighter. The guava itself also lends a much softer flavor of smoke.
Fun fact: This tea is a recent iteration of a previous recipe born from a necessary process: de-bugging the tea trees. Satemwa Estate would set guava-wood fires at the base of their tea trees to smoke out the bugs living in the tea tree bark. One year, they decided to hang bamboo baskets of fresh black tea on the trees, like Lapsang, and see what happened. The resulting tea was so richly smoky they couldn't resist making a full batch. Since then, they have switched to just smoking them over open fires, but the process remains the same.
If you are looking for the Phoenix Fire, yes this is the same technical tea, process, and estate. No it is not the same flavor at all. This is absolutely not a replacement for the Phoenix Fire, as is is substantially less smoky. We would recommenced you check out the Scorching Burst instead.
Years ago, we had a tea called The Phoenix Fire was an intensely smoky (like wildfire smoky) tea worthy of the idea of a flaming bird rushing over your tea plantation and scorching the leaves. This tea, from the same estate, same source, same processing? Not so much. It's much softer, more delicate, more reasonably a black tea with slight smoke. As such, I ran with the idea and made this one a "sequel." The Ashes of the Phoenix comes from the idea of a flaming bird rushing over your tea plantation and scorching the leaves, then these leaves being harvested the next year, born of the ashes of the previous crop. Like it was fertilized by the flames. It's not a wildfire, it's the ashes remaining after something has grown from them. Very soft smoke, but just enough to remind you that, yes, a phoenix was once here.
- Use 7g (≈1 tbsp) of leaf per ½ liter (≈17 oz) of water.
- Use boiling (100°C/212°F) water
- Steep for 3 minutes, strain leaves, and enjoy!
- Don't forget to try for multiple infusions! Just add time to each steep.
- For under 2:00 steep times, add 30 sec.
- For 2:00 to 4:00, add 1 minute.
- For over 4:00, add 2 minutes or more.
- Like milk in your tea? Steep an extra minute!
- Too strong? Take off a minute, or use 5g of leaf instead!
- Too light? Kick it up another minute, or use 10g of leaf instead!
- Wanna do a tea latte?
- Use 11g (≈1½ tbsp) of leaf per ½ liter (≈17 oz).
- Steep 2 minutes in ¼ liter (≈8 oz) boiling (100°C/212°C) water
- Add ¼ liter (≈8 oz) hot milk, steep another 3 minutes.
- Strain leaves, add sugar if you like (1 tsp usually does it), and enjoy!
- Malawian Thyolo guava-smoked black tea
We are a small independent operation, and as such we operate inside of our retail space, the Phoenix Pearl Tea Tavern in Red Lodge, MT. We bag teas for orders while also serving in-store customers, including making cups of tea, making food, and selling bulk and retail purchases. Our employees work as quickly as they can, but we don't have a warehouse to operate out of with dedicated employees. As such, orders may take anywhere from 1-5 business days to ship. Thank you for understanding.