The session on Darjeeling tea tasting had been rescheduled by a month at the Brighton Memorial Library. (Brighton is a suburb of Rochester, NY). Who knew it would turn out to be such a perfect day?
On what was a cold and wet afternoon last Friday, 20 people turned up for my first “big” tea tasting show. As anxious as I was - considering I had not done such an event in a long time - I was equally excited to get cracking. Indeed the pleasure of talking about tea is always compelling.
I had put together a power-point presentation “Darjeeling: The famous mysterious tea.” The title reflected my experience among tea drinkers in the US. Most of them have heard about Darjeeling as a “type” of tea, one among many other kinds. They do know that there is something “special” about Darjeeling, but what that is they would be hard pressed to tell. In the US tea market Darjeeling, appeared so exotic, that it verged on the border of being obscure.
However, I must happily admit, I was a bit off with my presumption as far as the attendees of my Friday show were concerned. Some of them even knew names of individual gardens in Darjeeling!
I talked about the history of tea, its origins in Darjeeling, manufacturing and the health benefits. While talking about tea history I couldn’t help but wade into politics with a mention of the Boston Tea Party. The symbolism of tea during the Independence struggle of the US, and the recent recrudescence of the Tea Party, strikes me, as a tea enthusiast, fascinating.
While discussing manufacturing, the guests found it interesting that women were so largely involved in the tea industry. There were also questions of concern, which I found heartening: questions concerning the working conditions of the tea pluckers.
Actually there were no dearth of questions from the participants. The lively banter continued even as we moved to the tea tasting session. We discussed the merits of puerh tea vis-a-vis Darjeeling, the meaning of the word pekoe (a lady informed the gathering that a staff at a tea cafe had told her that orange pekoe was not actually tea[why would anyone do that?!] ), the seasonal variations in the tea’s taste, etc.
For the tasting itself we drank a first flush STGFOP1 from Risheehat Tea Estate, and a second flush Ruby and first flush green tea from Arya Tea Estate. Both pf these gardens are organic and make some of the best Darjeeling tea.
The guests were charmed by the magic of Darjeeling. Not surprisingly, some of them began to lament about the quality of tea they had been drinking. One of the guests suggested she had never known that green tea could taste so good!
Before I knew my hour and half was up. The guests lingered on, sharing their experiences with tea. It is really hard to mind the clock when imbibing the best of teas, especially among such a appreciative and informed group of people.
I eagerly look forward to more of these experiences.