You don't often get a call that asks you if you have a fridge to store tea.

A friend of mine spends a lot of time travelling around China and Vietnam; one of the benefits is a constant stream of exotic teas for me. None, however, has been more exotic than the tea that followed this telephone call. Whoever heard of a tea needing a fridge? And that's how I first came face to face with Ba Bao Tea.

My version of the Ba Bao tea came from Fook Ming Tong, a Hong Kong purveyor of high end teas, including their own Ba Bao. The tea comes in a beautiful gift-wrapped box of a dozen individual tea bags. Each bag makes one pot of tea, four cups at a time. The tea can be re-soaked in hot water for more tea; at least five or six soakings can be obtained making all of twenty to twenty four cups of tea per bag. Refrigerated storage is, strictly speaking, not necessary, but there's always the chance that the hot humid Mumbai weather will shorten the life of the tea.

Everything about this tea is a little bit different. It isn't a standard tea at all – the name means "eight treasures" and green tea is only one of those treasures. As you can see from the picture, there are all kinds of dried fruits and berries along with some green tea leaves. The origin of the tea seems to be tribal – the Hui people of Northern China – but apparently it has now become quite popular everywhere in China. For a nice analysis of the ingredients, a google searched turned up just the blog post.

It's a fantastic tea. The key complexity is the different ingredients releasing flavours at different times. The first soaking yields a pale yellow liquid smelling of flowers and green tea. The second becomes sweeter as the rock sugar melt, but that disappears by the next soaking. Nuts and fruits show up in the third and subsequent soakings.


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