Yesterday morning before dawn my screwball “misadventure” gene rage activated for whatever reason. I started searching every town I knew how to get into and out of in Michigan (and Ohio) on Yelp for new tea vendors. I found a few this way, but in reality there was only one that actually fit the bill: Eli Tea.
Eli Tea just opened in December, so I’m not surprised word hadn’t spread to me yet. Eli (the owner) has a fab little shop on the corner of Old Woodward and W. Maple in downtown Birmingham. It’s kind of the perfect location. I hope they’re able to do some really galactic business. Additionally, the baristas really went out of their way to meet my every need and best of all: they never reacted as if my gender unnerved them! I for one utterly love Eli Tea with the swoondeath feels.
Eli easily has the most affordable menu of exotic and fun premium teas in the area. I found some really nose-opening teas for half the price of what I’ve paid previously. I really hoped they’d have a pu-erh, but it looks like maybe not this time. One thing I did find that I was particularly excited about however was Nilgiri Glendale (sorry no hyperlink yet). Nilgiri tea is a dark aromatic Black from Southern India (also hailing from the Western Ghats). Eli categorizes Nilgiri Glendale as a “Premium” Black, meaning it’s a mid-range; there’s one or two more expensive Blacks available in their “Rare” category. The raw tea has an enticing Yunnan Gold-like burnt aroma which immediately caught my attention yesterday. The first time I brewed it today using my lazy but workable method, I wasn’t getting the kind of scent off it that it seems to be famous for. I brewed it a second time in a tall highball mug with mineral water instead of distilled–using the first brew to rate the taste and texture and the second to rate the aroma. I strongly advise against drinking any tea brewed with mineral water. Here’s why…
I’m happy to say it worked: Nilgiri Glendale has a fragrant, sweet aroma that reminds me of lotus (It’s actually so strong it’s giving me a headache!). In taste, Nilgiri Glendale reminds me of a fermented Assam, or a toffee Pu-erh. Similarly, in texture Nilgiri Glendale has a Pu-erh-like grit. Apparently the much-sought-after full-leaf orange pekoe (O.P.) version has sold at international auctions for as high as $600/kg, but honestly that’s not saying much. I would venture to say it’s probably the most “fermented” tea I’ve ever had that didn’t actually undergo aging or secondary oxidation. According to Eli’s hand-sell write-up sticker on the bin (which I obtained permission to photograph), Nilgiri Glendale has a flavor that falls in between an Assam and a Darjeeling. It’s also Indian Tea Board certified. A simply stellar tea; you really ought to try this. 97% (still hammering out an actual quantitative rating system) satisfaction.
The truth is, nearly everything i smelled at Eli Tea was absolutely heavenly! It was very difficult to narrow my purchases down to just twelve, but at that point in the afternoon I’d basically exhausted the funds I’d set aside for the trip. Also, any more than that and I wouldn’t be able to really justify returning for a while, and I do want to attend one of Eli’s Tea Tasting classes. I’m not really kicking myself though since I was able to dig up quite a few “off-the-wall” (if you’ll forgive the pun) things to review at TranquiliTea earlier in the day. Here’s what I ended up gravitating to the most:
- Nepal Green
- Kenyan Safari White
- Assam Gold
- Darjeeling Steam Green
- Lychee Jasmine
- Kyoto Sencha Rose Festival
- Turkish Tea
- Organic China Green
- Colorado Lavandar Folgate
- 100 Monkeys