As the tea world waits with bated breath the first harvest of the year, generally known as first flush, Darjeeling is reporting a normal harvest that is currently on in full swing. After a slow start due to less than normal rain for most of March, gardens are reporting a much better harvest since the rains came down at the end of the month.
Most excitingly, the quality of the tea is reported to be “very good” this year. We ourselves have not yet sampled any Darjeelings. We wait for the crops from higher elevations where the production schedule runs behind majority of the gardens. At the higher elevations it is only now that the first flush production has begun in earnest.
As we eagerly await our first samples, there is a bit of sad news to report. On 31 March - the day when most of the tea gardens received the much needed rainfall - Darjeeling town and its neighboring tea gardens were struck by a blistering hailstorm. It wiped out the tea bushes in Arya tea estate, which is located right below Darjeeling town, Happy Valley and few more tea estates.
The hailstorm was unusually heavy. The whole place was under a pile of at least 4 inches of hailstones! For days our Facebook feed was filled with images of the hailstones posted by friends back in Darjeeling. We have never seen anything like that before! (Lot of think about in this Earth Month.)
The timing for the storm could not have been worse. It happened just as the production of Arya Ruby, one of our most popular Darjeeling offerings, was about to start. The damage in the garden is said to be so severe that there is expected to be no production until the second flush. The bushes there are described as “resembling brooms.” We are trying hard to see if we can snag any of the March harvest.
For our Ruby fans, we know it will be hard not to have your favorite cuppa this season. Ruby has such a unique flavor that it will be hard to substitute it with any other tea. But maybe this is an opportunity for you to try some of our other great teas! Until the second flush arrives that is.
Fortunately, most of the Darjeeling gardens were spared from the devastation. And we cannot wait to try them. We expect to offer some of our first selections by the end of April.
Image of hailstones in Darjeeling town, courtesy: www.indiangorkhas.in