Darjeeling 2018 First Flush Teas
Tuesday, 24 April 2018 | Jessica West
Darjeeling is revered as one of - if not the - finest tea districts in the world. Brews from this region are often referred to as the ‘Champagne of Teas’ and impart a gentle flavour. Most sought after, are the so-called ‘First Flush’ leaves, which are harvested in early spring and impart a fresh floral aroma, mellow fruit notes often referred to as 'muscatel flavour' with a mild astringency. The Tea Makers of London are very excited to introduce three of meticulously crafted premium range 2018 First Flush Darjeeling Tea. The range includes two black teas, Doke and Rohini, as well as a white tea from Glenburn tea garden.
The introduction of First Flush Darjeeling teas is the most anticipated event in the annual tea calendar. This year, more so than ever due to the unrest in the region last year, tea connoisseurs have been waiting, on the edge of their seats, to sample the results of the 2018 early spring harvest. Due to the unrest in the region in recent months as well as uncertain weather conditions, there have been concerns regarding the 2018 Darjeeling teas. However, we are happy to report the arrival of our 3 new teas at The Tea Makers of London HQ, and each of the three teas exceeds our vigorous quality standards. Our resident tea-taster has sampled the teas and given them The Tea Makers of London stamp of approval. We highly recommend each tea in our 2018 First Flush Darjeeling range to all fellow tea-lovers and tea connoisseurs.
To celebrate these anticipated teas, we have compiled an article that explores the geography and climate of the district, the history of Darjeeling teas, as well as the events of the past year in the home of the ‘Champagne of Teas’.
The Darjeeling District
Darjeeling is located in the northern part of West Bengal in north-eastern India. The district lies in the foothills of the Himalayas and has a temperate climate with wet summers that are prone to monsoon precipitation. The name ‘Darjeeling’ stems from the Tibetan term for ‘Land of the Thunderbolt’. The unique agro-climatic conditions in the West Bengal area, result in a distinctive natural tea flavour with hints of muscatel that is internationally recognised and revered.
Darjeeling consists of hills and plains that contain forests, rivers and farmland. The district has a length of 18 miles (29 km) from north to south and a breadth of 16 miles (26km) from east to west, making the entire district a mere 1,216 square miles (3,149km2) - an area less than half the size of the land that lies within the M25 motorway. Darjeeling constitutes a very small area of India’s total 1,27 million square miles (3,3 million km2), and produces only around 1% of the total amount of tea made in India each year. Hence, Darjeeling teas, are an exclusive tea variety that must be savoured.
The hill area of Darjeeling is formed of rock structures and are prone to landslides caused by heavy monsoon rain. The soils in this area are extremely varied depending on the degree of slope, elevation, geo-lithology and vegetative cover. Hence, each tea garden produces a unique flavour of tea, which takes its qualities from the nutrients of the soil. Our Makaibari 2017 First Flush tea imparts a perfectly balanced flavour with the trademark Darjeeling hints of muscatel, whereas our Jungpana is more fruity and sweet and our Margaret’s hope results in a lightly astringent yet nicely balanced brew. The Glenburn white tea imparts a gentle yet enticingly complex flavour with floral and light citrus notes and a soft hint of cool mint.
The production of Darjeeling teas dates back circa 180 years. Tea planting was introduced to the district in the 1840s by the civil surgeon Arthur Campbell (also known as Archibald Campbell). Soon after, the British government began to establish nurseries in the district under the colonial administration of the British Raj. At the time, growers developed new hybrids of black tea and created innovative fermentation methods.
Today, tea export constitutes a pivotal industry in the region and engages circa half of the population of the district.
Darjeeling teas impart a thin-bodied, light-coloured infusion with a distinctive floral aroma, a light astringency and a musky spiciness referred to as ‘muscatel’. As opposed to most Indian teas, which are made from the large-leaf Assamica variety of the Camellia Sinensis tea plant, Darjeeling teas are most commonly made from the Chinese Sinensis variety of Camellia Sinensis.
2018 First Flush Darjeeling
First Flush Darjeeling teas are harvested in the early spring - usually in mid-March following the spring rains. These teas constitute some of the finest teas in the world.
Worry brewed for Darjeeling tea connoisseurs this year. After political unrest and uncertainty for the tea plantations after 87 plantations were closed on a 104-day strike during summer 2017, it was not clear if this year would produce many Darjeeling teas. However, whilst the region may not have produced the usual amount of tea (almost 9 million kgs), the flavour of the teas that have been produced live up to the high-quality expected from these Champagne of teas.
The quality of the teas, despite the difficult environmental conditions, is a true testament to the talent of our colleagues in this famous tea region as well as to the sturdiness and adaptability of the almost 100-year-old tea bushes.
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