Darjeeling Tea is one of the most prized teas in the world. It is unique, it is exquisite, it has its own unique flavor profile that changes from season to season, and it is a beauty to behold in the cup.
What are the four seasons or flushes of the Darjeeling Tea?
There are four flushes or seasons for the Darjeeling Tea –
- 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 first and the second flushes of the Darjeeling tea are highly sought after and fetch higher prices in the international market.
If you would like to know about the Darjeeling First Flush tea, visit my previous blog:
Also, if you would like to know how to pick the right Darjeeling Tea, check out one of my other blogs:
The Darjeeling teas are usually brewed hot. However, in recent times, the practice of cold brewing the Darjeeling tea is catching up. I am an avid coffee enthusiast and have been cold brewing coffee for about 5-6 years now, so doing the same to tea was something I have been very curious about. For the past month or so, I have had 3-4 cups of cold brewed Darjeeling First Flush every week. I have honestly enjoyed every cup a lot. When brewed right, it does not dilute any flavors, still packs the punch of a great Darjeeling, and is quite relaxing.
What is cold brewing?
Cold brewed tea is NOT iced tea. However, the best way to make a good iced tea definitely goes via cold brewing the tea. Cold brewing essentially involves steeping the tea in cold water for a few hours in the refrigerator. It is a much slower and gentler process compared to hot brewing. Tea leaves and water in your preferred ratio are kept together in a bowl or mug or whatever vessel you are using and set aside in the refrigerator for a few hours to get cold brewed tea. It is the simplest way to brew tea actually.
How is cold brewed tea different from hot brewed tea?
The biggest difference between hot brewed and cold brewed tea would be that the cold brewed tea would be smoother and sweeter than the hot brewed tea as the tannins – compounds which make the tea bitter, do not get extracted sufficiently when the tea is cold brewed. Tannins are chemical compounds that are present in a host of foods and beverages, like tea, wine, etc. They give the tea its dry, somewhat bitter flavor. In some teas, tannins are also responsible for giving it their typical color. It is these tannins that give you nausea when you consume tea on an empty stomach. No heating means barely any tannins get extracted from the tea leaves, hence the tea is much sweeter and smoother. The steeping time would depend greatly on the type of tea, the freshness of the tea, and your personal preference. Cold brewed teas also have lesser caffeine than hot brewed teas.
Can all teas be cold brewed?
Usually, yes, but the time and ratios would vary. Green teas can be especially tricky to cold brew and if not done right, can give you an unpleasant bitter cup. Black tea, oolong tea, and herbal teas or tisanes are the easiest to cold brew.
Can cold brewed tea be stored?
I am all for consuming things fresh, but yes, like cold brewed coffee, cold brewed tea can also be stored. I would recommend not storing the cold brewed tea beyond 4 days.
How was the cold brewed Darjeeling first flush?
A Darjeeling tea is not something one would usually associate with a cold beverage, they are generally served steaming hot. Darjeelings aren’t easy to ice either, one wrong parameter and you’ve screwed everything, ending up with a bitter, unpleasant, unpalatable cup – you’ve wrecked the astringency, you’ve lost the flavor, what not. So, there is definitely science involved in cold brewing a Darjeeling.
Thankfully, I haven’t wrecked any of my cups. I guess all my experience cold brewing coffee has been super helpful here.
I used the Darjeeling First Flush from the Selim Hill Tea Collective from Dorje Teas. They’re some awesome folks, doing some awesome work in preserving the tea estates and helping the local people in the industry. After considerable experiments, I have come down to using slightly more tea than I would for a hot brew, to make a cold brewed tea. So, I am using about 4g in roughly 300 ML water if I am brewing it to have it as is. If I am going to pour it on ice, I brew it stronger, so more coffee, less water. I never have my Darjeelings with milk and sugar. I brew it for about 8 hours. I brewed one for 9 hours and I think that’s where I would draw the line, anything beyond that would ruin the tea. 8 hours should be reasonable
Cold brewing the Darjeeling gives me a good tea liquor with a good sensory profile. There has been barely an perceivable bitterness but the astringency is still bang on. For me, the cold brewed Darjeeling is exquisite, it flows all over my palate with a rare clarity. The aroma is strikingly clear and distinctly decipherable. The floral sweetness of the Darjeeling stands out in my cold brewed tea cup. Since the Dorje Tea is really fresh, cold brewing accentuates the flavors beautifully.
If you have teas like a Sencha, you would find pronounced differences between a hot brewed and a cold brewed cup. But this is not the case I found to be with my Darjeeling First Flush. Cold brewing tends to retain the sensory complexity of the cup. The cold cup is in no way a lighter or milder than the hot brewed one, it does pack the same punch, and for me, I even relish it slightly more than a hot brew. Besides, if planned in advance, all I have to do is go to the refrigerator and pour me a cup whenever I feel like it.
In conclusion, I am loving cold brewing my Darjeeling First Flush. I intend to continue the practice with the Second Flush when Dorje sends me the batch. I also want to try doing this with the Indian chai. Even more interesting should cold brewing teas grown in different tea-growing regions and different processes. There is so much to explore, I am excited just imagining it. If you’d like to join me on this journey or you’d like to carry out the same experiments with me, slide into my DMs on Instagram – @banjaranfoodie.