Knowledge: Darjeeling’s Premium 1st Flushes
I have a particular fondness for Darjeelings. The first single-origin tea I tried was from Darjeeling.
When the first flush arrives, we put a lot of effort into selecting each year’s curations. As always, we consider the leaf size, style and level of oxidation. We look at the elevation, producer and how their teas have performed in previous years, comparing to samples we hold from previous years. Above all, it’s about flavour.
Gopaldhara Wonder Gold
Gopaldhara is a very high elevation garden, perched at heights of up to 7,000ft. Its family run, by the Saria family, who have overseen extensive re-planting of the higher sections of the garden with high-quality AV2 varietal plants.
The Wonder Gold was picked on the 11th April 2013 from section 19 of the garden. The timing of the picking is expertly done; late enough for the leaves to be rich in flavour, while early enough so they keep their fresh, light profile.
This is a black tea; however, you’ll see the surprising light greenness of the leaves and infusion. High-quality 1st flushes are very often made in this style. When the freshly picked leaf arrives from the garden, a large proportion of the water is evaporated from the leaf in a process called ‘hard withering’. Moisture is a key component in oxidising a leaf green to black. With much of the moisture evaporated, the oxidation is inhibited and the leaf stays at the green end of the spectrum.
Careful making and hand-sorting follow, giving this batch a large proportion of tips and impressive whole leaves.
The flavour is a delight; full of tropical fruit with honey florals top notes and a clean finish. Allow the tea to develop in the glass and will take on a greater fruity sweetness. This is a perfect choice if you’re indulging in a smoked salmon (our choice is Hansen & Lydersen) as the salty umami enhances the fresh sweetness of the tea.
Makaibari Grand Reserve
Organic, biodiverse, sustainable; under the 4th generation ownership of Rajah Banerjee, Makaibari has become a pioneer of sustainable agriculture and a producer of exquisite Darjeelings. Rajah practices permaculture, with 70% of the garden as natural forest.
The Grand Reserve was an inspiration of Lalani & Co and Makaibari to push the boundaries of Darjeeling’s flavour. Each year, two batches are made; one in the 1st flush and one in the 2nd flush. If it reaches the level expected, it’s released as the Grand Reserve.
The 1st Flush Grand Reserve 2013 was picked just as the sun rose on the Naya Kheti section of Makaibari, at an elevation of 5,000ft. Just 10kg were made, giving a total availability of 100 jars.
It’s makes beautiful comparison to the Gopaldhara Wonder Gold, still a light 1st flush but deeper in its profile. Maple-sweet, stone fruit and a peach-skin dry finish; this tea will suit those who enjoy a richer 1st Flush.
Here’s how to infuse these teas to bring out their best:
Heat the water to the recommended temperature written on the jar. A temperature kettle is the best piece of kit to do this. If your kettle goes straight to 100°C, a useful trick is to remember that water looses 5°C every time you pour it from one vessel to another.
Weigh or measure out the leaf as recommended on each jar. Scales easily trump teaspoons here.
Heat your infusion vessel with a swirl of the hot water.
Add the leaf to the vessel, then pour in the hot water. Carefully avoid pouring directly onto the delicate leaves.
Start the timer.
When the time runs out, decant the whole infusion into your glass. Decanting all the liquid prevents the leaves from over-infusing and keeps them ready for a second infusion. A single serving vessel is ideal, like the Lalani & Co Infusionware No.1, designed with London ceramic artist Billy Lloyd.
I hope you enjoy exploring these excellent Darjeelings. They’re available together in a 2 jar mini-case at a 5% reduced rate.