|"What apprehensions I had for first flushes vanished in that first sip."|
Darjeeling had a rough start this year. A blockade was established by a political party in early March. (A group wanted Darjeeling to secede and form a state called – get this – Gorkhaland. Seriously…Gorkha. Land.) This put a damper on timely picking and delivery until late-March/early-April. Some feared that this would affect the taste of the teas themselves. I only sampled one first flush Darjeeling from this year’s batch, and still liked it quite a bit. If it had any flaw in comparison to first flushes of the year prior, it was the unwelcomed inclusion of a slight, green tea-ish vegetal note.
Mark T. Wendell Company claimed this was one of the best 2011 first flushes they sampled this year. The Singbulli estate is located at an elevation of 4,000 feet, situated in the southwestern corner of the Darjeeling district – right next to the Nepalese border. MTW also claimed that this tea was a visual treat, offering up a color feast of green and black tea leaves. They even went as far as to say that some silver buds were in the mix.
And you know what? They were right.
The visual presentation was beautiful. On first look, one would think they were looking at a green tea – something in the Mao Feng family, mayhap. The smell, though, gave away that this was a Darjeeling through-and-through. There was no mistaking that smell of peppers and spice. God, I missed that smell!
Brewing instructions for Darjeelings on the site called for a two-to-three-minute brew time in 180F-200F water. They were spot-on with the time and temp. Unfortunately, I was at work when I decided to try this. I chanced hot water from a coffee machine, which possessed a middle-ground temperature of 190F, and guessed when “about” three minutes was up. It was probably more like three-and-a-half.
What resulted was a light gold-to-amber brew with the requisite Darjeeling cup aroma – spice, astringency and grape. To the taste, there was a slight vegetal forefront (but not as strong as I had feared), followed by a wonderful bouquet of earth, spice, and – well – class. What apprehensions I had for first flushes vanished in that first sip. Dryness on aftertaste was also thankfully mild and…oddly soothing. This gives me hope for what the second flush might bring.
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