Pity our poor befuddled delivery man today when our Darjeeling teas arrived. He labored under the heft of the boxes, only to look at us with a very bewildered expression on his face when he inquired about what was in the boxes. ” Tea ? ” he asked. You mean lots and lots of those little teabags can weigh that much ? ” Well, not exactly…….
We’ re talking real tea, and some of the world’s most delicious at that.
Considered the Champagne of Tea, Darjeeling tea is beloved worldwide for its smooth, rich muscatel flavor and fine bouquet. These famous tea gardens are located in the lofty Himalaya of West Bengal in Northern India.
The flavor of Darjeeling tea benefits from the mist-shrouded environment of the tea gardens and the slow maturity that cool, high-altitude locations provide. The first tea gardens were planted here with Camellia sinensis sinensis (100% China bush), but today modern Darjeeling tea gardens rely on Camellia sinensis Assamica and locally developed clonal hybrid tea bushes.
1st Flush Darjeeling teas are the first teas plucked each spring – and they command the highest prices of the crop year. Spring is the peak time for new leaf growth and the most delicious teas. Plucking begins during the end of February and continues until mid-April.
These teas are highly sought after each year by discerning tea enthusiasts worldwide. The exceptional quality of 1st Flush Darjeeling teas has led to record breaking prices every year.
We tasted a quantity of samples this spring as soon as the tea made and the samples reached us. We chose the following tea from two premier estates because we thought that they each were a notable example of the different style and flavor characteristics that well-made Darjeelings exhibit. More than most, these teas are true reflections of their terroir, and in a place like Darjeeling, that is always a good calling-card.
The 2009 Goomtee First Flush exhibits an abundance of the fresh, lively, “green” flavor notes so popular in Europe, especially Germany & France. A perfect example of a ‘modern-style’ Darjeeling First Flush, this year’s Goomtee is deliciously bright and assertive; dry, with a crisp finish.
The Goomtee Tea Estate is located in the Kurseong (the land of orchids) Valley of Darjeeling at an altitude ranging from 3,280 –6.561 feet. The garden is ideally situated for the production of quality Darjeeling tea. It is located in the prime quality tea belt between the tea estates of Jungpana to the East and Makaibari and Castleton to the West.
The weather in Goomtee Estate is perfect for growing tea: the temperatures are cool to moderate and rainfall is generous. As a result it helps the garden produce some of the most aromatic teas ever produced in Darjeeling.
The 2009 Jungpana First Flush is a classic muscatel-type Darjeeling. Showing little of the modern-style ‘green’ leaf that is currently en vogue, this year’s Jungpana First Flush has a classic style and depth of flavor that we haven’t seen in a First Flush Darjeeling in quite a few years. From one of the premier Darjeeling gardens, this tea is superb.
The Jungpana Tea Estate is situated near the famous town of Darjeeling. The tea gardens have an excellent location and altitude; they lie at 3,000 – 4500 ft and are blessed with a nurturing south-facing orientation. The exceptional quality of tea produced at this estate is derived almost exclusively from China bush leaf.
To consistently produce some of the finest Darjeeling in the world for over a century, the management at Jungpana plucks only the most delicate of leaves. They have mastered the intricacies of manufacture, and make quality a fetish. The Jungpana Estate was planted by the British, then owned initially by the Scotland based Duncan Brothers. Later, it was owned by the Ranas of Nepal and thereafter has been with the Kejriwal family for more than five decades.