Mountain Stream Teas is still a relatively new vendor, but one that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Recently I ordered the Matt’s Favourites Taster Set and I’ve been working my way through them. I’ll have more reviews on these teas coming out over the next while, but decided to start it off with the High Mountain (2000m) Black Tea. This tea comes from a very high elevation on Pear Mountain and is interesting in that tea from this area would usually be processed and made into oolongs.
I have tried out a few Mountain Stream Teas now and I have found that for my own personal taste Matt’s recommendations use less leaf and longer infusion times than I like. I think when trying out a new vendor lots of people will go to the recommended brewing parameters first before experimenting though, so for this review I am sticking to Matt’s suggestion. This means I am using 2.75 grams of tea in my 55ml gaiwan, 90°C water, and my infusion times are 30s, 45s, 60s, then an additional 5 seconds for each remaining infusion.
The first infusion is sweet and chocolatey with a hint of vanilla and oak. In the background there are some fruity and floral qualities, but they are currently pretty far back. The aftertaste is a brown sugary sweetness that goes on forever.
The second through fifth infusions see the chocolate note move to the side and the tea gets increasingly fruitier and fruiter. The description of this tea says stone fruit and I do occasionally get a bit of that, but to my taste buds it’s a very clear and distinct fresh pear taste. It’s bright, crisp, juicy and delicious. The already long lasting aftertaste keeps extending and is really quite impressive. After four or five minutes you can press your tongue to the top of your mouth and get another hit of sweet frutiness. High Mountain Black is extremely easy drinking and smooth, with absolutely no bitterness, astringency or rough edges of any kind.
The sixth infusion has a sharp drop off in flavour and the tea was completely done by the eighth. I think I have a tendency to push teas a bit farther than others would, as I still get enjoyment out of a weaker tea at the end of a session, but I think many people would still be into these last few infusions. The flavour is very weak in these infusions, but you still get bits of toasty flavours and the sweet aftertaste.
All in all, I think this is a great tea that could have a wide appeal to lots of drinkers. I’m generally not a fan when I see vendors say something to the effect of “perfect tea for the new drinker but good enough for veterans to enjoy too!” but I think it actually applies here. I could see the fruity sweetness and smoothness making this a perfect “transition” tea for people who have grown up drinking bagged black teas with a bunch of sugar and want to dip their toes into the loose leaf world. But it’s also just a fantastic tasting tea that seems to have been processed with care and can be appreciated by pretty well anybody who likes good tea.
For myself, I’ll be picking up more of this but probably not for at least a few months. To me, this comes off as a great fall and winter tea. It’s a comforting drink that feels like something that would be best enjoyed on a cool morning at the cabin, being sipped by a wood stove. I can also see myself reaching for it on a -30°C winter day when I don’t want to get out of bed. So for now, the remainder of this sample will probably sit on my shelf and wait for the hong mood to strike, but this definitely won’t be the last I see of High Mountain Black Tea.