Darjeeling first flush 2016 production 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.
Enjoy this slideshow of our visit to the famous Margaret's Hope Tea Estate in Darjeeling in November 2015. Although, we do not offer tea from this garden, since it is not Organic, it was nice to look around and meet up with our old friend, Arun Gurung, who is the assistant manager there.
Even as we await the arrival of Darjeeling First Flush 2015, with folded hands, praying for the weather gods to show kindness upon the harvest of spring, we want to pay tribute and say farewell to our First Flush tea from last year. Today, we drank our last cup of Phoobsering 2014 with a little sadness and much anticipation of what this year's season will bring.
We are shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden passing away of Steve Smith, the founder of Stash, Tazo and finally Smith Teamaker. Smith shared a special relationship with Darjeeling, and his death is going to be mourned by many there.
By 1871 Mandelli had become part-owner of a tea garden. He and WR Martin jointly bought Bycemaree, a tea garden near Siliguri in the plains. This would be part of what is now called the Terai tea growing region that borders Darjeeling tea district to its north. The expanding tea plantations were part of a tea juggernaut that the British Empire was to roll out soon through parts of India and Sri Lanka, eventually decimating the Chinese tea market for a century and more.
Lured by adventure and the prospect of fortune, the Darjeeling tea industry attracted some interesting characters. One such was Louis Hildebrand Mandelli Castelnuovo. Descendant of Count Castel-Nuovo, a Maltese aristocrat, Mandelli is reputed to have fought alongside the Italian hero Garibaldi, and fled to South America before making his way up to Darjeeling.
Darjeeling first flush 2015 production is off to a slow start. The weather once again is proving to be a challenge; thankfully, it does not seem as bad as last year. Rainfall has been lower than average for the months of January and February, and the temperatures are hovering below normal for the period.
"This 2014 First Flush Singbulli Darjeeling from Happy Earth Tea is simply superb. The problem in writing about it is that there are so many different flavors in this tea that emerge depending upon preparation. Frankly this is true of all of the Darjeelings that I have purchased from Happy Earth. Mr. Lama obviously has a very cultivated palate, and as a result the leaf quality of his Darjeelings is of very high standard, permitting all kinds of variations in temperature and steeping time, without incurring bitterness. I have, at times, forgotten about my steeping, and so have partaken of teas steeped up to fifteen minutes! In all of these instances I have only discovered new flavors... never bitterness.
The names of our Darjeeling teas actually include the tea garden from where they were grown and manufactured. This is the historic way of identifying and authenticating these magnificent teas. Arya, Puttabong, Phoobsering, Singbulli, Sungma, Turzum, etc, exotic and hard to pronounce tea gardens have worked diligently to build their reputations of producing some of the world's best teas. When the garden is identified you are buying into their long standing reputation for excellence and high tea manufacturing standards. Because it takes many years to build a good reputation, tea gardens work extremely hard to maintain the highest standards and protect their brand.
Sen Rikyu, the great Japanese tea master said: "Chado (Way of Tea) is nothing but bringing hot water to tea leaves and drinking it." We adopt the master's way in making of Darjeeling for this video. This is a simple but tried and tested method for getting the best out of your Darjeeling.
So which tea did Queen Mary (1867-1953) so prize that she had to keep it locked in a cupboard?
According to James Norwood Pratt, pioneer of the current tea wave in the USA, it was "a fine Darjeeling with a pronounced muscatel flavor." This was the Queen Mary Tea Twinings sold as the personal choice of the late Queen Mary, he adds, in his book The Tea Lovers' Treasury.
A bit of internet "research" showed that Twinings had launched this tea in 1916 and discontinued it only in 2007, after over 91 years! It is amazing the brand lasted so long. But we amuse ourselves with the thought that they could have given it 10 more years and let it retire at a more auspicious and grand 100 years! That is if they had to drop this tea from their stable.
Now that spring is here in all its glory, it is wonderful to sit outside and enjoy a cup of tea. This morning I sat in the backyard of our home with Risheehat First Flush 2014. Brewing it gong-fu style, I took in not just all the exquisite flavors from back home Darjeeling but also the beauty of spring that now surrounds us here.X
Weather continues to challenge tea folks in Darjeeling. Even as the first flush production moves into its final week, reports estimate the shortfall this year to be from 30% - 50% compared to last year's.
Darjeeling tea has historical roots in China, being transplants of saplings that Scot botanist Robert Fortune smuggled out of forbidden kingdom in early 1850s. Even though Darjeeling has come a long way both literally and figuratively in the tea world, carving out its own hallowed niche, it is fun sometimes to marry these two tea traditions.
We are often asked the question, what is Darjeeling tea? Is it a type of tea, or what? Being Darjeeling tea specialists we thought of putting together a small post here that answers the question. Hope it helps.
We cannot wait for this winter to take a rest. It is late February and we are faced with yet another prospect of an Arctic Vortex. But the signs of hope are emerging - bulbs are pushing forth their shoots amid the snow and ice, the calls of returning birds can be heard, and there are more blue skies.
"YES! This Organic Arya Ruby Darjeeling Black Tea Second Flush from Happy Earth Tea is the type of Darjeeling that I think of when I think “Darjeeling Tea.” This is it! When I say “I think I’d like a Darjeeling Tea today … this is the kind of Darjeeling that moves me to want that type of tea! This is the Darjeeling I LOVE!" - SororiTea Sisters.
There was 21 days of waiting between the death of my father and his Ghewa (memorial death feast). For the hardworker that he was, he would have been the first person to protest my sitting around moping for all that time. So on the final week of waiting I headed out to Dootheria tea estate where my good friend (I actually address him as “daju”, an elder brother) Yogdeep Gurung is the General Manager.
The Buddhist flags that flutter over Darjeeling hills remind you that both your joys and sorrows are fleeting. Nothing stays. So resist attachments - the root of all suffering.
Some time ago, when we stumbled upon the pleasures of cold brew Darjeeling, my wife expressed a fancy for bottling Darjeeling perfume. The leaves of the first flush tea, after a cold brew, smelled so exquisite that had we the means, we’d have right away underwritten efforts to realize my lady’s dream.
We have just finished sampling Darjeeling Second Flush 2013. My palate is singing and my heart is full. What a blessing it is to be able to partake of some of the earth’s best gifts!