Most of the time, writing an article comes pretty easy for me. But for this one, there was so much information I wanted to share that I've started and edited through 5 drafts. I hope you find it enjoyable, helpful, and interesting.
The nickname for Darjeeling Tea is the Champagne of Teas, and it earned this title for a reason. This tea is truly a premium tea that offers such a flavor variety depending on the "flush" you are drinking.
"Flush" is the fancy term used to describe when the tea leaves are harvested. Each flush is determined by the geography and climate of the region where the tea is grown.
Did you know that Darjeeling is more of a region than a style of tea? The Darjeeling region in India is in the northern part of the state of West Bengal. It bumps up against high mountain ridges and deep mountain valleys of the Tibetan Himalayas at the edge of the Himalayan Mountains and Nepal. This challenging geography and rough, sometimes inaccessible, terrain make Darjeeling tea such an exclusive and some of the most prized teas in the world.
Winter weather can be severe across the Darjeeling region, causing its tea bushes to go dormant during the cold weather. The harvest season can run from February to November, depending on where the plantation is located. There can be between 3 and 5 flushes. The number of flushes varies by weather conditions and the growth of the tea leaves.
First Flush is the very first plucking of a tea plant's harvesting season and can be as early as February and last through April. The new growth, consisting of two new leaves and a bud, is hand-picked during the First Flush. It is the youngest and most tender part of the tea plant. They are said to yield the purest and freshest cup of tea that the plant can produce. These early leaves are usually more delicate and tender, create more light, floral, fresh, brisk, and astringent flavors, and are generally less oxidized or processed. This exquisite first flush Darjeeling tea has several antioxidants that can reduce free radicals and help promote a healthy life. The abundant antioxidants can eliminate toxins and take care of the harmful free radicals. These antioxidants prevent aging and reduce cellular damage to a great extent.
My Organic First Flush Darjeeling tea is among the most prized and expensive on the market. It is so special and exclusive that tea connoisseurs consider the first harvest from this region to be the "Champagne" of teas. Here's the pretentious industry description: "It has musky-sweet tasting notes similar to muscat wine. But it can also have delicate vegetal, mossy, fruity, and citrus flavors." In simpler words: it's a wonderful tea.
The Second Flush can be picked as early as April and runs through May or June. This flush produces larger, more mature leaves with a purplish color and silver tips or leaf buds. The leaves grow more rapidly during this time, producing a stronger yet smoother flavor for the finished tea. Teas from the Second Flush are known for their full-bodied, muscatel (think grape), and fruity flavor.
The Monsoon Flush — yes, you guessed it, after the monsoon rains are gone — runs from June or July through October and produces large leaves that brew into a stronger color and bolder flavor. It is less complex in taste than the previous Flushes and is often used for iced tea and commercial tea bag tea production.
The Autumnal Flush happens in October and November. It produces a tea with a rich copper color that can be described as rich, full, nutty, and smooth in flavor. The tea leaf growth slows down during this time as the plant squeezes out the very last of what it has to offer before it goes dormant for the winter.
Is one flush better than another? Not necessarily. The best tea for you is a matter of personal taste and preference. If possible, I suggest trying Darjeeling teas from the different flushes. That way, you have a point of reference. I've considered bringing in some Darjeeling tea from each flush in addition to my Organic First Flush Darjeeling and would love your feedback. Would you be interested in sampling some of the different Darjeelings? Please let me know your thoughts, as that will influence my decision.
One last interesting feature about Darjeeling teas. While it's grown in India, the leaves are from the Chinese tea plant Camellia sinensis rather than Camellia assamica, more commonly grown throughout the rest of India and known as Assam. The unique flavor of Darjeeling comes from Chinese tea plants mixed with India's unique growing region, soil, and methods of harvesting and processing.
Even though Darjeeling is considered a black tea, it is lighter and less astringent than most black teas but more layered and complex than most greens. And that's why it's awesome and a game changer in the tea world.