Last year’s Darjeeling season was difficult — Covid interrupted the harvest, and almost all early invoices were stuck in transit.
I heard this year was problematic, too, because of lack of rain, but what I have sampled so far is excellent. One of my favorites this year is the Glenburn Moonshine – Elite | EX-24 from my trusted merchant at Tea Emporium.
This is one of the most flowery Darjeelings I ever had. Smooth, delicate, and still substantial.
This is ok. Somewhat worse is that the prices for Darjeeling have gone up again. I can only hope that the workers benefit from it, too.
My favorite this year so far is the Upper Namring “Premium”. I don’t know whether these little epithets like “Premium”, “Wonder”, “Exotic” or “Supreme” have a qualifying meaning; I liked it better when they would just call it “Invoice 12”, counting the harvests. But clearly that requires explaining, while everybody seems to understand “Wonder”.
This “Premium” harvest ic clearly not completely uniform, but I like the mix of bright green leaves with the rolled darker ones, this gives the tea a slightly grassy note in addition to the floral character of a powerful Darjeeling.
Next time I will try to visually convey the taste differences between 2017 and 2018 Puttabong Moondrops.
The summer harvest of Darjeeling teas is called Second Flush. While the first flush teas are usually grassier and more delicate, the second flush are darker, fuller, and haven often a musky note.
I enjoy both, typically a first flush in the morning and a second flush in the afternoon. My two tea suppliers from India couldn’t be more different. The one I showed pictures of here packages the tea in aroma sealed bags. The other one has a narrower selection of top quality teas, and more competitive prices.
The battered DHL envelope contains a cloth that has been hand sewn together, to contain the individual teas. They are protected by celophane bags,
inside of which are brown paper bags, wrapped in reflective foil, and all tied closed with individual strings.
I truly appreciate the care they take at Tea Emporium to protect the goods, and I am sure their down to earth way of doing this is at least as good as vacuum sealed plastic bags.
Last year’s Second Flush harvest left me a bit disappointed. I found the teas I sampled too musky. This year it looks like we have some solid, full bodied teas again. Up above and below you can see the exceptional Pussimbing Organic DJ-70.
Unboxing photos of high tech goodies have become popular, but nothing can beat unboxing these teas.
Today, I took possession of a medium sized box from India.
It contained lots of little nicely labeled bags full with tea leaves.
One of my yearly delights that few understand is the arrival of the new harvest Darjeeling, the main ones being the First Flush (March) and the Second Flush (June). Here we are looking at teas from a dozen or so tea gardens. This is to the tea drinker what vineyards are to the wine drinker. And similar to wine, teas vary in quality and quantity from year to year.
Even though the British are responsible for stealing seeds of tea plants from China and planting them in India, most of my friends from England have a hard time recognizing the dried leaves as tea. Most of them are used to the dust that is now cheaply produced in Africa. Already smelling the dry leaves is wonderful.
Then, of course, there is the science of steeping tea properly. Temperature is important; for good Darjeeling the water should be boiling or near boiling. More difficult is the choice of the right water. The tap water in most places I have lived completely ruins the tea. Filtering often helps somewhat, but bottled water is better, and finding the right one is not easy. Luckily, the local tap water in Bloomington is excellent for tea (except when a summer draught causes it to taste muddy). For reasons I haven’t been able to find out, tea doesn’t get bitter here.
This is limestone country, and the tap water is surface water from artificial reservoirs.
Finally, it is essential to give the leaves some space to expand. After all these preparations, I am rewarded with several delightful cups. Strange that most people are clueless about all this.