Enough wine talk. Time for tea. As the new 2011 season develops I’m starting to drink new teas from all over the place: Japan, China, and India. One package I always much look forward to arriving is that with first flush Darjeeling. Those freshly processed tea have an invigorating energy to them that is just fantastic. (See here and here for last year’s reviews).
This year I’ve ordered the convenient sampler pack offered by Thunderbolt Tea. Sampler packs are a great idea since they allow you to taste a wide variety of tea without overbuying: in this case 300g of first flush Darjeeling is definitely enough for my needs, given that second flush tea will be offered within a month from now.
Benoy Thapa of Thunderbolt is a great tea buyer, in my opinion (in previous years he’s offered some of the best batches of Darjeeling I’ve ever tasted), and also a great communicator. For one thing, his tea descriptions are particularly thorough and though obviously gauged at increasing sales, they’re actually to the point. Here’s what Benoy has to say about my first sample of 2011 Darjeeling, the Risheehat Exotic Spring Clonal:
The dry tea leaves of this clonal variety from Risheehat has an attractive bloom, larger than normal size and stylish in appearance. Longish/elongated, well rolled and twisted… Apart from the overall greenish appearance, it has a flawless natural blend of complex set of colors – different shades of greens, browns, grays and whites… One super fine quality First Flush Darjeeling clonal tea from Risheehat. Each tea garden has its own specialty and many came our way, but we had to reject quite a number when a comparison was done with this – thus this tea was procured. We surely would like to recommend you this tea for its super quality.
Certainly the dry leaf is exactly as advertised: a variegated mix of greens and browns with a very strong spicy, almost bergamottey aroma. In brewing, this tea is quite light – even by modern first flush standards it delivers a cup that’s not far from a green tea in character. Almost completely tannins-free, even in a five-minute standard competition brewing (and look at the very light colour this yielded:)
A long brewing makes this tea a little chunky and burdens the aroma, so the best result is obtained by my preferred first flush Darjeeling brewing method: a flash infusion in large pot. I’d use anything between 3 and 6g of leaf for 250ml of water and let steep for 20 or 30 seconds, no longer. This way you can obtain a second infusion too, but most importantly, the citrusy, flowery, fresh-as-a-daisy character of first flush is emphasised. This Risheehat sample has plenty of citrus and little complexity but who cares: it’s the freshness that counts. At $29.75 per 100g it isn’t a particularly cheap tea, but I think it’s a solid first flush at the lower end of the oxidation scale that aficionados of the style will find worth the expense.
Source of tea: own purchase.