Malawi Antlers White Tea, a Delightful Rarity

Malawi Antlers, a white tea, are delightful on multiple levels!

The country of origin

Malawi, a small landlocked country located in southeastern Africa, struggles. Most people farm, with agriculture primarily subsistence and cash crop. Their exports do include produce from small landholdings, as well as tea (primarily black tea) and tobacco from large estates.

Within Malawi, the Satemwa Tea Estate is found in the south, in the southern Shire Highlands, at an altitude of 1,640–3,230 ft above sea level. This third-generation family-owned enterprise has been around just shy of 100 years!

Malawi

The plant

First, a quick plant physiology lesson!

  1. A shoot, or metamer, comprises leaf, node (the point from which a leaf emerges), internode, and bud; the shoot varies according to how the leaves are arranged on the axis of that particular plant.
  2. A module is an axis formed of metemers.
  3. A fully developed module can be a long shoot or a short shoot.

You can see the bud as well as the emerging leaves from the nodes in this forsythia shoot:

plant module

So, to produce Antlers, tea bushes with a longer shoot axis are selected.

And while that may sound pretty simple, multiple factors are at play here. Water potential in the leaves, air temperature, vapor pressure deficit, and dormancy cycle all affect shoot initiation and extension rate.

close up antlers

In the Malawi Antlers shown above, you can see a bud (left) as well as a node (center).

For Antlers, shoots are picked in March to April and air dried, classifying this as a white tea. This minimal production process also ensures that the shoots retain a bit of velvety sheen.

tea closeup

Only around 50 kg of Antlers are produced annually, making this a rare tea.

The name

Malawi Antlers may seem an odd name but it’s very apropos. Each stalk resembles an antler!

tea, antlers

The tea

I brewed a heaping teaspoon at 190°F for 2 minutes. Although my outdoor photo shows a golden brownish cup, indoors it almost had the slightish pink hue to it. The aroma was floral, sweet, honeyed.

brewed tea

Flavor? To me, it’s wonderfully smooth, light and fruity (but which fruit?), slightly sweet, floral, layers of flavor, without any bitterness and with little astringency. Not like anything else I can think of.

The second brew seemed almost creamier to me. It was equally delicious but with perhaps less fruitiness. I love all the flavor nuances I get in each sip.

brewed antlers

And although the stalks may look like Japanese Kukicha Houjicha, the resemblance stops there!

So, from its origin on a longtime family-owned tea garden—to its name—to its appearance—and to its exquisite taste—this tea offers a lot that’s delightful. Malawi Antlers are definitely worth a try!

vignette

Currently, TeaHaus in Ann Arbor has a limited amount of Malawi Antlers.


Sources:
–Janendra M. De Costa, W. A., et al., “Ecophysiology of tea,” Braz. J. Plant Physiol. 19(4):299–332. 2007.
–Krishnamurthy, K. V., ed., Growth and Development in Plants, p. 202, Scientific Publishers, 2015.

7 thoughts on “Malawi Antlers White Tea, a Delightful Rarity

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