When I first came to the US nearly 10 years ago and tried Darjeeling tea, I was as expected disappointed. The tea had to travel long and hard and obviously the tea without any harvest date marking was old. A decade later when much has changed, including the tea market here, the expectation has as needs be dramatically risen. The US tea market has exploded and the tea consumers are much better informed. Now one of the things the tea drinker wants is fresh tea. However, a lot of tea companies, especially the big ones, still decline to reveal the harvest season or year for the tea. This we find surprising.
Hence, it was with great joy we decided to invite some of our local fans to taste the first flush samples we had received from Darjeeling tea producers. It was happiness for us to be able to offer the experience of drinking a range of fresh spring teas from Darjeeling. How fresh? At the time of drinking the teas, the first flush harvest continued back in Darjeeling! The teas we had were from Arya, Risheehat, Sungma, Puttabong and Singbulli tea estates.
Darjeeling first flush is a delicate tea. Unlike the second flush, it is generally not oxidized 100%. Although the Darjeeling tea industry calls it a black tea, it technically falls in the realm of oolong. Overall the tea, possessing a greenish appearance, has a delicate floral fragrance that embodies in it the freshness of spring in the mountains. It also has an undertone of sweetness. Both the fragrance and the sweetness lasts for a long time in the mouth even after the tea has been drunk.
First flush Darjeeling, in our opinion, is a fine stand-alone tea. This isn't a tea to be paired with food. It's delicate and subtle nature will otherwise be lost with food.
Our guests were happy for the tasting. The fun part was to find the best of the lot - hard job indeed, when they are all so good. But it was interesting to see how different people liked different teas, which again is the nature of taste - it varies from person to person. There were lots of questions and besides others it was fun to explain why there were "China" bushes in Darjeeling.
Now all of us wait for the tea consignment to arrive - while savoring the long finish of the teas that are known to the world as champagne of teas.