Why we think first flush Darjeeling is the perfect springtime tea

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the daffodils are nodding in the breeze. At last, spring has sprung: a cause of gladness for anyone, but especially for the tea estate owners of Darjeeling. For them, the arrival of spring signals the end of months of tea-growing dormancy. More importantly, it also heralds the arrival of the prized first flush Darjeeling.

First flush Darjeeling tea is produced from the first new shoots of the tea-growing season, which appear after the spring rains. These delicate shoots, comprising a bud and two leaves, are carefully plucked by hand. Then, they are processed using the orthodox method: the shoots are withered, rolled, fermented and dried, before being ‘graded' according to their size and quality. The result is a brewed tea that is light in colour, with a delicate, fragrant, floral flavour.

Darjeeling teas owe much of their character to the climate and geography of the region in which they are grown. Some 86 tea gardens sit several thousands of feet above sea level, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Alternate spells of rain and sunshine combine with well-drained soil and a cool mist to create the perfect environment in which to cultivate tea. What is more, the differing altitudes of the gardens, and their varied soils, mean that each produces a tea that is different from the next. To experience the distinction for yourself, try comparing a First Flush Darjeeling Nurbong to a First Flush Darjeeling Badamtam.

Although first flush Darjeelings are generally the most valued, the region produces exquisite teas throughout the growing season. Second flush Darjeelings, such as the Second Flush Darjeeling Jungpana and the Second Flush Darjeeling Margaret's Hope, offer a very different sensory experience. They are golden-amber in the cup, with a mellow, full-bodied, flavour. Monsoon teas, picked between July and September, are stronger yet again, and tend to be used in Darjeeling blends. Then come the smoky-flavoured, copper-coloured autumnal teas, which are harvested after the autumn monsoons. 

Whatever your preference when it comes to tea, there is bound to a Darjeeling to suit it. And if you'd like some advice on which to choose, why not get in touch? We'd be glad to share our views...

21st March 2011

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