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.
We are delighted to announce the availability of 2014 autumn flush teas from Jun Chiyabari, Nepal. The quality of teas from this certified Organic tea garden continue to amaze us. As the owners of Jun Chiyabari told us, they are putting a lot of energy into producing high quality teas. It clearly shows.
A new category of oolong in our "A Tea Master's Oolong" series is called Hung Shui (also written Hong Shui). This category belongs to the fascinating - and for newcomers often times, bewildering - world of Taiwanese oolongs. (Read here about the background to A Tea Master's Oolong.)
Hung Shui is used to describe a certain style of making oolong. Unlike many classical teas, Hung Shui is not particular to a provenance. But in some ways Hung Shui's raison d'etre has to do with the protection of another famous Taiwanese oolong that is tied to its provenance, the Dong Ding oolong.
Happy New Year!
As promised here is the first of exciting new things we are unveiling this year - a very special line of oolongs from Taiwan selected by a local Tea Master who we have known for nearly 10 years. Over the years, we've had endless discussions about tea and swapped our favorites teas. And last summer, we had the good fortune of meeting him while on a tea teaching mission to America. He has generously shared his passion and extensive knowledge of oolongs. And now with great excitement, we are proud to offer a very special collection from A Tea Master's Oolong.
One of the main reasons for my recent trip to India was to attend my father's “barsi” - his first death anniversary ceremony. These rituals officially mark the end of the mourning period for the bereaved family, and invoke Chenrizig, the goddess of compassion, for the liberation of all souls.
Dawn breaks over Sukna, a small village in the foothills of Darjeeling. This is where my mother lives. This is where I was born 40 years ago, when elephants used to trundle down the dirt road in front of our house. Times have changed. Now young men walk the dusty lanes transfixed onto their cell phones just like anywhere else in the world.
Nepal is one of the youngest tea producing nations in the world. It ranks 20th in the world in terms of total tea production according to 2012 data. Despite its young history, Nepal has earned a seat at the table with the “big boys” of tea.
"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.
Sometimes it's fun to mix up traditional tea a bit.
For this summer one of the recipes we concocted was iced Dragon Well (Lung Ching - Jade Mountain) infused with peach. You are welcome to help us name it.
Manufacturing of fine tea is nothing less than an art. There are endless variables a tea maker has to consider at every step. The impact of sunlight is one among many variables, and the “o-oi-shi-ta” technique practiced in Japan brings it to sharp focus.
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.
Adam M, one of our regular customers from LA, has submitted another helpful feedback this time on our Phoobsering First Flush. We are grateful for your reviews that help our other customers to make better choices and also have a richer experience of our teas.
Here are some pictures from the Spring Tea Celebration 2014. We tasted 5 first flush teas from Darjeeling and two oolongs from Taiwan, which make up our spring harvest offerings of this year. But for one cold brew, the rest were all brewed hot in tasting cups, tea pots and a gaiwan.
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.
Pic by Andrew Harto
We love hearing back from our customers about our teas. We are grateful that they take the time off their busy schedules to write back to us. Their passion and knowledge inspire us to work even more harder to bring to all of you what you deserve - the best of the crop.
Here are some of the feedback/reviews that our customers have been sending us. Thought we would share them with you. These can help readers understand our individual teas better, and make a more informed selection of tea for themselves.