From Bangladesh With Love

Bangladesh is one of those countries that people hear about, but don't quite know too much about. The most famous icon associated with the country is the Bengal Tiger, which resides in the world's largest mangrove forest within the country. But other than that, what is there to know?

The country is nestled between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal, nearly surrounded by India.

The country is nestled between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal, nearly surrounded by India.

If you really want to get to know more about Bangladesh: Wiki. Or better yet, find a good backpacker's travel blog about the place. This blog post has a specific purpose.

Sylhet is the region on the northeast side of the country that is most associated with tea production. The area of Panchagarh on the northern tip of Bangladesh has seen promising tea development in the last decade though, because the climate is favorable for tea growth, especially for orthodox tea production. On the map above, the Panchagarh region is right below Sikkim, near the border of Nepal.

I was lucky enough to acquire some samples of tea grown and processed in the Panchagarh region. I have black, green, white & oolong tea, and my goal was to see what similarities I could find in each of the teas to trace them back to this specific terroir.

The only proper way to discover these teas was through a comparative cupping.

Left to right: oolong, white, green, black.

Left to right: oolong, white, green, black.

All the teas came packaged in pyramid bags, so I emptied the content of each into a cupping set (approx. 6oz capacity), used water just under the boil, and steeped for 4 minutes. I tasted lightest to darkest first, and then randomized my tasting order.

Overall, what I noticed is that these teas do not taste mature. The teas don't seem like they have reached their full potential of showcasing the unique flavors of their terroir. They were not bad! Don't confuse my statement with low-quality or lack of good taste. The teas were, more or less, very drinkable and in some cases very enjoyable. The dominant trait I found characteristic in each of the teas' flavor was a sharp, herbal intensity, usually most prominent in the middle flavors (after the liquid enters the mouth but before it goes down the hatch). The green and oolong tea displayed this quality much more than the black or white tea, but each tea had its own way of showing it.

Left: oolong. Right: white.

Left: oolong. Right: white.

Left: green. Right: black.

Left: green. Right: black.

Each tea also shared some characteristics of flavor with one or more of its counterparts.

The green and black tea seemed to both have a slight sourness and some of that herbal sharpness I described before.

Green and oolong shared an overcooked vegetable flavor and were both quite brisk on the tongue.

Oolong and white both had a soft malic acid flavor resembling apples, but the oolong was a bit sharper.

Black and white had a wonderful honey sweetness and were both balanced and round in their flavor profiles. Out of all the teas, the black and white seemed to be processed the best, or at least the way they were processed really brought out some of the superb flavors that Bangladesh has to offer!

Left: green. Right: black.

Left: green. Right: black.

Left: oolong. Right: white.

Left: oolong. Right: white.

Bangladesh will have to go through a maturity stage before they start producing globally competitive orthodox teas, but the raw ingredients are surely present! The southern Himalayan region is known to produce exceptional teas. Nepal went through a similar maturity phase and the orthodox teas being produced there currently are of excellent quality and really compete on the global market. Bangladesh will have a similar breakthrough as long as they receive some investment dollars for their tea industry and a few large importers willing to take a chance on their orthodox tea products.