Darjeeling 2017 First Flush Teas

Friday, 28 April 2017  |  Maja Alice

A year in the home of the ‘Champagne of Teas’.

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 gentle flavour with a mild astringency. The Tea Makers of London are very excited to introduce our premium range of 2017 First Flush Darjeeling Tea. The range includes three black teas from the Makaibari, Jungpana and Margaret’s Hope tea gardens, as well as a white tea from the 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, tea connoisseurs have been waiting, on the edge of their seats, to sample the results of the 2017 early spring harvest. As of late, unusual environmental conditions have resulted in challenges for tea planters in the district. Experts have had concerns about how the unprecedented weather would affect the outcome of the tea. The First Flush teas arrived at The Tea Makers of London HQ earlier this week and we are happy to confirm that our 2017 Darjeeling First Flush range, more than 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 2017 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.

Darjeeling Teas

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.

2017 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. Changing weathers have presented challenges for tea planters in the district. Fluctuating temperatures, unseasonal snowfall, dry spells as well as heavy rains have resulted in strain on both the farmers and the plants themselves. The weather conditions resulted in a decrease in yield of this year’s revered First Flush harvest. First Flush accounts for circa 20% of total annual tea production in the district, but accounts for circa 35% of the total value of the Darjeeling tea industry. Therefore, the spring harvest is very important to the local economy in the area.

While this year saw an overall decrease in yield from the district, the flavour of the teas from our three Darjeeling gardens lived up to our high quality standards. The unusual temperatures and moisture conditions have created new chemical conditions within the tea leaves. These conditions have resulted in a distinctive 2017 flavour that stands out from previous years but remains true to the well-loved gentle muscatel flavours that First Flush Darjeeling teas are famous for.

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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