A few weeks ago, while on vacation in the US, I went to an ordinary supermarket, curious what the regular consumer can expect when in the mood for tea.
I was a bit disappointed to see convenience ruling over quality. Rows of teabags of all sorts, not that there is something wrong with it, but it would be nice to give the regular consumer some choice; an avenue to explore towards new heights and infinite better quality.
In all fairness it is getting a bit better when compared to years ago as some loose leaf tea has found their way to the shelves. However it’s still a far cry away from the wonderful complexity and taste wonderland that is the loose leaf tea world.
When I first went to an ordinary supermarket here in Myanmar, a big smile came to my face. This is how I see the future in the US in terms of choice and quality while still maintaining a healthy balance between teabag convenience (hopefully slowly moving towards tea pyramids) and high quality loose leaf tea. In this blog I want to focus on Myanmar tea, as I never experienced tea from this tea producing country as it is hard to find in the online tea retailer world.
Once I discovered these teas it gave me a close connection to the country I am living in and made me proud of the quality and superior taste of these teas. Don’t get me wrong, it will not replace my passion for Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Sri Lankan tea and all the other tea countries but it adds a rich layer to my tea experience.
The world needs to hear about this country which by all means can have a solid tea market in the future as this wonderful country further opens up to democracy and new opportunities. And to my friends who will come to visit me, be ready to be spoiled by a wonderful cup of Myanmar tea. I was fortunate to share a few cans of Myanmar tea at the World Tea Expo this summer and I hope it was enjoyed by its recipients.
The majority of the population here in Yangon enjoys black tea – Indian style. Black tea can be found as loose leaf or as a tea blend. The condensed milk is conveniently located right next to the black teas.
Another type Myanmar people like is the tea mix – instant tea with milk powder mixed in. I am trying to respectfully accept this as part of the culture. Not a bad taste but also not the best in terms of taste experience. You put the tea powder in the cup, pour boiling water over it – and the milk tea is ready. The brand ‘Royal is covering a large percentage of the tea mix aisle, so I am assuming it to be the most popular here.
Myanmar offers a large variety of green teas and the ones from the north of the country, Shan state are considered the best. I am amazed by the generosity of my friends here and I will cover the special tea gifts I have received in a separate blog.
Loose leaf tea comes either in boxes and pouches but I also see vacuum sealed bags to preserve the freshness. The brand ‘Mothers Love’ offers several premium green teas with an amazing taste. I am curious to taste the Chin Mountain Organic green Tea and how it will compare to Shan State Green tea. I found interesting varieties and I am not sure where I will land in terms of taste and flavor –a sweet- sticky rice green tea. Very interesting.
I also found a tea labeled ‘Sun-dried (Handmade) – Special Team, not sure yet if it will be white tea or green tea – we will see when I open it and I will take you along on the ride.
Another big tea company is ‘Nagar Pyan’ and offers a wide selection of loose leaf teas. One positive trend here to see is high quality loose leaf tea such as this Single Estate Unblended tea.
I also found this Jasmine tea, locally flavored with Jasmine blossoms, I hope it will live up to the promise in terms of taste. I also found white tea and I was told by friends in Europe who tried it, that it tastes great. I yet have to find a local Oolong tea but I am sure they exist, I found this loose leaf Oolong tea, however it appears to be of Chinese origin.
Overall I am amazed how a quick trip to a supermarket can result in such a wide range of high quality tea, all produced right here in Myanmar. I really hope that this trend continues and more and more choices appear on the shelf for the normal tea drinker. I still have to introduce you to the high quality tea salons and tea stores and you will be amazed what I can show you. May the American supermarket one day have this range of choices of high quality loose leaf tea.
Enjoy your next cup of tea!