Review: Mark T. Wendell First Flush Darjeeling 2010 Puttabong Estate

Black Tea, Darjeeling Tea, Mark T. Wendell, Single Estate Tea Add comments
Sophie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Floral, stone fruit and coniferous notes combine into a rich and changing landscape. It's like the best of all flushes have been rolled into this one harvest!"
Sophie’s Teaview: 9.4/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 8.4/10, Jamie gave it 9/10, Geoff gave it 8.4/10, Katie gave it 8.2/10
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This offering comes to us from the famed Puttabong estate in Darjeeling. Established in 1852, it was the first in the district and has gone on to produce top quality teas. Touted as an exceptional first flush, this particular tea is described as bringing together floral and herbaceous notes, along with the requisite muscatel perfume.

Not as dark in colour as other Darjeelings I've come across, the leaves are a mixture of tans, olive greens and browns. Typically first flush teas are less oxidized than other harvests, so that could explain it. The leaves show a wide range of shapes and sizes. They smell fruity, with lots of cocoa notes thrown in, with a vaguely mentholated overtone. Although I was impressed with this company's informative website, I couldn't find any brewing instructions. Falling back on my usual brewing methods for Darjeelings, I used a heaping teaspoon of leaves in water heated to 85 degrees Celsius and infused for 3 and a half minutes. The amber coloured cup presents a lovely perfume combining stone fruits, lilac and peony notes. As other reviewers have pointed out, the flavour profile of this tea is a bit of a puzzle and very hard to pin down. Part of the difficulty comes from the complex and ever-evolving array of flavours emerging as the tea cools. Initially it is fruity, with an edge of spruce gum but becomes more nutty and grainy with time. It makes for a very stimulating brew, brisk, clean-feeling and almost minty fresh. There is no bitterness to the finish, just a touch of astringency. The typical herbaceous taste of a first flush is present, but also some of the malty, fruity sweetness one would expect from a second flush. It's like the best of both flushes have been rolled into this one harvest!

A second 4 minute infusion is slightly smoother than the first. The taste is now closer to the flavour of a sweet, grassy green tea with hints of toffee. The honeyed finish lingers on and on. The flavour is still so potent, I decide to infuse the leaves a third time around for another 4 minutes. Alas nothing lasts for ever: by now the leaves are completely exhausted and this last steep is little more than warm water.

This was one of the best and most intriguing Darjeelings I've tried in a long while. Although it's on the pricier side, the quality of the leaf is definitely worthwhile. The expected muscatel notes are present but much less prominent than in other Darjeelings. However this tea more than makes up for it, with floral, stone fruit and coniferous notes combining into a rich and changing landscape. Having tried last year's second flush from the Puttabong estate and been similarly impressed, I have to give them kudos for a top quality, bold and vibrant tea once again. This was my first foray into Mark T. Wendell's products and it certainly won't be my last. I look forward to trying others of their carefully chosen selections. Exceptional indeed!

Visit Mark T. Wendell Teas for more information on this tea and many more from their extensive product catalogue.

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