Review: Royal Tea of Kenya Royal Golden Safari Tea

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Raven’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Stimulating and comforting, the tea is a fresh, deliciously nutty greeting to the Kenyan landscape"
Raven’s Teaview: 8.4/10
Other Teaviews: Dan gave it 7.6/10, CJ gave it 7.7/10, Troy gave it 8/10
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Although, I’m pretty sure it is impossible to know all the tea companies even on the continent, I continue to be surprised when I encounter a new one. How haven’t I seen it before? This time there was a reason. Having launched only at the beginning of 2011, Royal Tea of Kenya has just started to wiggle its way out of the cocoon and get out there. So knowing that they sell tea from Kenya is the easy part, but their story is quite a personal one, as the company was started by a Kenyan whose family grew tea (Joy W’Njuguna). While Royal Tea of Kenya specialize in orthodox teas, despite the CTC tradition of Kenyan teas since the 1960’s (1), they also offer CTC teas, all from small Rainforest Alliance certified farms. Their Royal Golden Safari could be their pinnacle, as it seems almost more than a tea, by celebrating Kenya as part of their line of ‘teas 4 trees’. These teas donate part of their cost to small operation tea farmers to honour Professor Wangari Muta Maathai, a dynamic activist for women, the environment and Kenyan growth which earned her a Nobel Peace Price. Her regal spirit actually inspired the 'Royal' of their Royal Golden Safari tea. So with such divine inspiration behind it, the tea is bound to be a winner.

And the red carpet could roll, for upon seeing the tea, they certainly have trophy appeal. As my first Kenyan orthodox tea, the leaves are engrossing as any safari should be. Large and languid, their sturdy stature has presence, as much as their eye catching hues. Interspersed tips and leaves unite in form, yet ebony browns juxtapose the lush creamy pale orange of the tips. Quite tiger like, their pale copper hues seem to explain the name and unwind the safari’s trail. Caught by surprise, a lion roars as the bouquet dawns, freshly aromatic. The scent is like no other black I’ve traveled through, commanding and gentle, to introduce the Kenyan landscape. Fired by kind of spicy citrusy high notes, like distilled cardamom with a bit of anise, that extend on a dry leafy nuttiness, it has a stimulating verve and is a very high hitting bouquet. A touch gamey or meaty in its saturation, the aroma inspirits toasted hazelnuts or almonds with a tangible potency as if roasted nuts were right before you. There is also a purity to the spiciness as if drawn from the distilled oils or the toasted seeds. With a subtle white chocolate like sweetness bringing it all together, the bouquet is freshly invigorated as a wild welcome.

With the first spot of lions and tigers, the adventure awaits but a kettle away, oh my. Although not listed on their website just yet, Royal Tea of Kenya recommends brewing the tea with boiling water for 4-5 minutes and so I followed along. The tea sends out a beacon with a blazing bear of a brew, a clear medium light sienna. Set aflight, the tea’s scent livens further, shooting highs with a kind of citrusy, almost bergamot-like pitch through delectable toasted peanut and fried food aromas. It’s quite bizarre but in that riveting. The nuttiness almost smolders, warmly reverberating, to get one’s tummy rumbling. The citrusy floral is kind of a mix of muscatel, bergamot and cardamom that's hard to describe but it is equally vivid, heady and elevating to be somewhat rind-like with just a dash of sweetness that the bouquet seems almost more savoury than sweet. So freshly alive, the medium strong scent certainly does propel one to the cup to explore.

The flavour abounds, weighting the medium body as the landscape unfolds into intertwining bergamot, anise-like flavours and roasted nuts. Like the bouquet the kind of bergamot anise flavour rises as the sky across the soulful, comforting nutty ground, making for an engaging dynamic. Roasty and delightfully hearty, a tinge of tannins ride the horizon with a light astringency further defining the feel but it makes it not completely smooth. While not the least bit bitter, the tea's flow almost seems to need a bit more rhythm to its movement as it disappears into the finish rather than coming ‘round to gulp. As it fades into the horizon without any aftertaste, its shadow sweetly casts a silhouette of dry hay behind through the cup.

From such an engaging view, it encourages one to continue, where a second infusion of the leaves unravels a light to medium golden brown to travel. Despite the lighter scenery, the bouquet is just as bountiful as the first. Yet the scent shifts and sweetens, as the nuttiness reminds me more of just opened peanut butter eclipsed by the bergamot like floral. The flavour mellows but remains complete and just as tasty. Mineral flavours emerge with an almost saltiness that seems like sunflower seed shells alongside the bergamot muscatel. The saltiness enhances the snack-like heartiness which contrasts the sweet elements so well to retain an appetizing liveliness. There’s still a touch of astringency while the flow gains some momentum that ebbs into a light aftertaste that almost seems to cool the tip of one’s tongue. Very clear tasting, the tea seems poignant while combining both comfort and alertness.

Setting one’s sights on a third steep, there’s still more gold in view from an amber brown brew. The scent relaxes yet retains the delicious nuttiness streaked with the bergamot, cardamom brightness. This follows in the cup as the bergamot-like bit lightly cascades onto a rumble of roasty leaves.

With such a glow served hot, it was no surprise but a marvelous treat to find the tea is as fun to drink cold and sweetened. The citrusy muscatel twist maintains a vibrancy, condensing from the bouquet into the flavour where it diffuses into the warm toastiness to become quite chocolate like. The aromatics with the catechins and tannins of the tea seem to mimic the same bittersweet elements of chocolate with the depth of a dark chocolate polyphenols and some added smoothness of milk.

Parking the elephant after Royal Tea of Kenya's Royal Golden Safari, the tea truly pulls one into a fresh, unique landscape. As the tea has elements to both comfort and rouse, the tea conjures much to amuse while making it open to many a mood. Either way, Royal Golden Safari seems a sip of a trip worth taking.

Those interested in reading more about Royal Tea of Kenya and the tradition of Kenyan tea production can read more in the articles on the Royal Tea of Kenya website (http://royalteaofkenya.com/) from The Fresh Cup magazine or the reference below.

1. C. Ryan (2011). Crush, Tear, Break Out. Tea Almanac:Fresh Cup Magazine, Dec., 27-31. Retrieved 02/25/12.
(http://freshcup.epubxp.com/issue/48160/32)

— To purchase Royal Tea of Kenya Royal Golden Safari Tea, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: Raven Raven
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