First Flush Darjeeling: the essential guide

As this season’s first flush Darjeeling arrives in our stock room, here are 10 things you need to know about this most exquisite tea.

1. The first flush arrives with spring

One of the reasons first flush Darjeeling is so prized is that it’s the first crop of the tea-growing year. After months of dormancy, the rising temperature brings the tea plants to life, and their first delicate shoots have a fragrant flavour that is by turns floral, subtle and cleansing to the palate.

2. First flush Darjeeling is hand-picked for flavour

After the spring rains gently nudge the tea plants into life, shoots emerge that consist of a single bud and two leaves. These are plucked by hand, in order to prevent damaging them, thereby ensuring the most tender leaves end up in your cuppa. 

3.  Orthodoxy matters

First flush Darjeeling must be produced using the orthodox method. This involves withering the shoots, fermenting and drying them naturally, then grading them according to their size and quality.

4. 86 tea gardens produce first flush Darjeeling

Visit the foothills of the Himalayas and you’ll be confronted by one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. You’ll also encounter 86 different tea gardens, all of which rest several thousands of feet above sea level and are busy throughout the year growing teas that will be shipped across the world.

5. The Himalayan climate is perfect for tea growing

The reason so many tea gardens are situated in the Himalayas is that the mountains provide the perfect growing environment. Well-drained soil combines with alternate spells of rain and warm sunshine, ensuring the tender crop has every chance to flourish.

6. The devil’s in the detail

Subtle variations in surroundings make a big difference to the flavour of a tea. For example, the Badamtam estate grows a first flush Darjeeling with a slightly sweet finish and flowery taste. Experts attribute this to its location in the heart of the Leobong Valley.

7. Darjeeling has been grown for centuries

Tea is of course one of the oldest plants on the planet, and professional Darjeeling cultivation has been going on for centuries. Many gardens, like the Singell estate that supplies one of our first flush teas for 2015, sprung up in the Victorian period, when tea was fast becoming the drink of the British Empire.

8. First flush Darjeeling has a complex flavour

While on the subject of the Singell First Flush, it’s a prime example of the complexity of flavour that characterises first flush Darjeeling. The latest organic crop has a light and flowery sensation on the palate, but a rich and deep aroma. That’s paradoxical, we know – but this is only to be expected when you’re drinking one of the world’s finest teas.

9. First flush Darjeeling is lauded for its quality

If Darjeeling is known as the “Champagne of teas”, first flush Darjeeling is the equivalent of vintage Krug. It’s widely regarded as the most exquisite tea you can buy, which explains the excitement that greets the first flush crop each spring.

10. A taste of luxury needn’t break the bank

It’s true that the first flush tea leaves are more expensive than regular Darjeeling. But with our range, the finer things in life are available to everybody.

We’re currently offering last year’s stock of first flush Darjeelings, including a delicious Tumsong variety and 2014’s Singell crop at reduced prices. These teas are still every bit as delicious as when they arrived last spring, and will give you a good taste of the first flush experience.

If you simply must get your hands on the 2015 crop, however (and who could blame you?), we currently have two varieties available: Darjeeling Singell First Flush 2015 Organic and Darjeeling Badamtam First Flush Organic. Order now, and you’ll enjoy a tea-drinking sensation like no other.

29th May 2015

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