Considered the Champagne of Tea, Darjeeling tea is beloved worldwide for its smooth, light muscatel flavor and fine aromatic bouquet. These famous tea gardens are located in the lofty Himalaya of West Bengal in Northern India and were established by the British in 1852. The first successful tea gardens were well underway by 1866 and today there are approximately 87 working tea gardens in Darjeeling. Camellia sinensis sinensis ( China bush ) variety tea bushes were originally planted by the British, but today Darjeeling tea gardens rely on these plus plantings of Camellia sinensis Assamica ( India bush ) and locally developed clonal hybrid tea bushes for their teas.
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. Spring is the peak time for new leaf growth and the most delicious teas. The most highly sought after teas are those from the 1st Flush ( spring plucking ) and the 2nd Flush (late spring, early summer plucking. ) First Flush Darjeeling teas are just that – the first teas plucked each spring – and they command the highest prices of the crop year. Plucking for 1st Flush tea 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.
The weather in Darjeeling in spring 2010 has been challenging for the tea farmers, the tea pluckers and the tea makers. Rains have been lacking and the weather has been unseasonably hot. Some teas have fared better than other because of their locations (and micro-climate ) within the greater Darjeeling valley. We tasted a quantity of samples this spring as soon as the tea was made and sent to us, and discovered that even in what many consider a ‘bad’ year, the great teas are still delicious and heads above the rest in style and flavor.
We chose the following tea from three premier estates because each is 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. All three estates are located in the same valley – Kurseong South Valley (the land of orchids) – which yields our favorite Darjeeling flavor profile. These teas are fresh and lively and fill the cup with the ‘bouquet of springtime.’
Goomtee Estate 2010 1st Flush FTGFOP1 Clonal Organicexhibits an abundance of the fresh, lively, “green” flavor notes so popular in Europe, especially Germany & France. A perfect example of a ‘modern-style’ 1st Flush Darjeeling, this year’s Goomtee is deliciously bright and assertive; dry, with a crisp finish.
Goomtee estate is located in the Kurseong South Valley 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 at Goomtee is perfect for growing tea: in a normal season, the temperatures are cool to moderate and rainfall is generous. As a result it helps the garden produce some of the most aromatic teas produced in Darjeeling.
FTGFOP1 is a grading term for the size of the leaf of orthodox manufacture teas and it means: fine tippy golden flowery orange pekoe #1
( medium whole leaf, clonal tea bushes)
Jungpana Estate 2010 1st Flush SFTGFOP1 is a classic muscatel-type Darjeeling. Showing little of the modern-style ‘green’ leaf that is currently en vogue, this year’s Jungpana 1st Flush has a classic style and depth of flavor that we haven’t seen in a 1st Flush Darjeeling in quite a few years. From one of the premier Darjeeling gardens, this tea is superb.
The Jungpana 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.
SFTGFOP is a grading term for the size of the leaf of orthodox manufacture teas and it means: special fancy tippy golden flowery orange pekoe ( smallest whole leaf, China bush)
Castleton garden is located in the Kurseong South Valley at altitudes ranging from 3,215 to 7,545 feet. It is one of the premier gardens in Darjeeling. Castleton 1st Flush teas are softer and richer than out Goomtee or the Jungpana selections. It has a lingering, buttery flavor characteristic that is reminiscent of the nature flavor found in the 2nd Flush teas for which this garden is so well known.
FTGFOP1 is a grading term for the size of the leaf of orthodox manufacture tea and it means: fine tippy golden flowery orange pekoe #1 ( medium whole leaf, China tea bush )
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