Darjeeling Tea is renowned the world over. Time and again, it has fetched international awards and recognition, and is considered among the best teas by tea sommeliers across the globe. I have had Darjeeling tea from different flushes over the years, but never did I get a chance to try the freshly roasted Darjeeling tea. The ones I had were usually tea bags (ugghhhh….) or something roasted like a few months before. But like most things food, freshness makes all the difference in tea. I recently signed up for a subscription from Dorje Tea for Darjeeling Black Tea. As part of the subscription I get 250g of freshly roasted and packed Darjeeling Tea from each of the four seasons through the year. So, every quarter, I would have a packet of freshly roasted and packed tea at my doorstep coming all the way from the beautiful Selim Hill Tea Collective in Darjeeling. sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
Interestingly, Darjeeling derives its name from the words ‘Dorje’ meaning ‘Thunderbolt’ and ‘Ling’ meaning ‘land’. So, Darjeeling actually means the land where the thunderbolt of Lord Indra – King of the Heavens and he God of Rain and Storm – fell. Today, there are only 87 fabled tea gardens in Darjeeling.
What are ‘flushes’ in tea?
For over 200 years, Darjeeling has harvested and processed tea in four ‘flushes’, most of which almost always got exported. Seasons play a very important role in determining how fast the tea leaves would grow and how much flavor & aroma they would retain. Darjeeling Tea tends to develop very distinct flavors in each flush.
What are the four flushes of Darjeeling Tea?
The four flushes of Darjeeling Tea are:
- First Flush: A delicate Darjeeling cup with floral liquoring, harvested in the spring time
- Second Flush: The true ‘Champagne of Teas’ with the characteristic Muscatel flavor harvested in the summer
- Roasted Flush or Monsoon Flush: A bolder cup harvested during the monsoon months
- Autumn Flush: A bright cup with full-bodied flavor harvested during the fall
The usual awareness is that the first flush and the second flush Darjeeling teas are the most prized ones across the globe, being highly sought after and fetching better prices in the international markets compared to the Monsoon and Autumn flushes. However, my personal opinion is that each flush has a charm and beauty of its own and it should be relished accordingly. I prefer enjoying my tea irrespective of which flush it came from. Instead of comparing the flushes and then ranking them, I choose to enjoy every season and every cup. This is my personal opinion, to each their own. To me each flush has its unique attributes and I would savor them for how unique they are.
I am still brewing the First Flush, though the Second Flush harvest has begun in Darjeeling. i am yet to receive my second flush packet in my subscription, meanwhile I continue to relish my first flush Darjeeling.
What does Darjeeling First Flush Tea taste like?
Delicate and tender, the springtime rain reflects itself in the Darjeeling First Flush Tea. During the winter months, the tea bush covered hills of Darjeeling fertilize and prepare for the soon-to-arrive spring, generally set for March. The bushes begin developing a dark green texture and the leaves slowly begin flushing. The spring time is cool and breezy in the hills and you will feel that freshness in your tea cup.
The dry tea leaves of the Darjeeling First Flush Tea are greyish green. They are rough, long, and bold (totally my kind, LOL). The liquoring of the First Flush Darjeeling would be like Champagne while the aroma would be delicate with floral notes and reminiscent of freshly cut fields. The First Flush Tea is called ‘spring in a cup’ and rightly so.
Darjeeling First Flush Tea packs and intensely fruity punch. It is light to medium bodied, has a nice bright appearance, and has a very distinct peppermint finish. It has a characteristic astringency, which I find lingers for a bit. hen brewed well, it won’t be unpleasantly bitter either. However, since first flush teas are generally only lightly oxidized, it is important to brew carefully at slightly lower temperatures for controlled time spans. Oversteeping is going to ruin what would otherwise have been a beautiful cup of Darjeeling Tea.
How do I brew my Darjeeling First Flush Tea?
I use filtered water at about 85 to 87 degrees. For 250 ml water, I use about 2-3 g (generally one teaspoonful) of the tea leaves. I let it steep for about 5 minutes. If I am looking for a lighter brewer, I stop at 3 minutes. I brew in a closed kettle and pour into a tea cup once steeped. I let it sit for a minute or two, then sip and savor.
The hot brew can be prepared stronger and then milk & sugar can be added to it, if desired. I strongly recommend having the tea as is, without any additives so you can experience the real flavors and textures of the outstanding cup before you. However, if you are someone who prefers the milk & sugar, I won’t judge.
I have recently taken to cold brewing the Darjeeling First Flush and I am super pleased with the results. Cold brewing almost completely removes the bitterness without affecting the astringency of the tea. The delicate floral notes also shine beautifully in the cold brewed cup. Overall, I find a cold brewed Darjeeling to be smoother on the edges while still packing quite the punch. Maybe I will do another blog discussing my cold brewing experiments with the Darjeeling First Flush.
For the cold brew, I use room temperature filtered water. I used about 10-12g of Darjeeling loose leaf tea with about 600 ml of water. This seems quite a strong concentrate but I figured cold brewing would require a stronger ratio. I am still experimenting with the ratios so if I find something works better, will update this blog then. I stir the mixture nicely before keeping the bowl with the lid in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. If you like it slightly lighter, take it out at 6. Once brewed, filter the tea, and it is ready to drink. Brewing it at a stronger ratio also gives me the freedom to have it on the rocks without worrying about diluting the liquor.
With this fair idea of how a first flush tastes like, what it is, and how to brew it, you are all set to experience the beautiful tea on your own. So, order your teas and get brewing. I strongly recommend the Dorje Tea subscription plans. They have a subscription plan for the black tea as well as the green tea, so you can choose whichever tea you prefer. If you have any questions I could answer, drop them in the comments below or find me on Instagram – @banjaranfoodie.
To learn more about Darjeeling Teas, check out my previous blog:
Together, lets get brewing!