Sunday, August 15, 2010


For all three teas
STEEPING TIME: 2 minutes

This started as a tasting I did for myself while studying intensively in the weeks leading up to the exam last spring.  I've been thnking in the past few days that tastings of only one thing are extremely difficult.  It's in the contrasts between things that one can often find the strongest definition -- more frequent "ah ha" moments. When our class did its first sample tasting at Spire Tea Sean's most lasting piece of advice for me was, when in doubt, go back and taste again against another tea.  Especially for aspects such as briskness and mouthfeel.

And speaking of briskness, the Darjeelings can often be quite brisk, especially the year's first flush. 

Today's tasting is of three Darjeelings from Tealish -- one first flush and two second flushes.  I presume they are 2009's or possible 2008's.

I have to say this was not a particularly successful brew.  Two out of three were almost undrinkably bitter.  I was reading the incredibly useful "The Tea Drinker's Handbook" this afternoon and noted they recommend long steeps (3 to 5 minutes) at 85C for the five Darjeelings they describe.  Hmmm.  Cooler water temp and longer steep than I've done before.   The long steep made me nervous, since Darjeelings are known for "bolting" to great bitterness after 2 minutes, so I opted to try the cooler temperature water but stick to a strict two minutes for each tea.

From left: Gopaldhara first flush, Avongrove 2nd flush
and a Puttabong 2nd flush. The snap's over exposed but
you can see the difference in amount of green in the leaves.

#1.  DARJEELING Gopaldhara Estate FTGFOP1 - 1st Flush
Remember those letters?  Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (grade) 1.  A grading system developed in India and used in Ceylon as well.

According to the label, the Gopaldhara Estate is at an elevation of 7400 feet and is one of the three highest tea gardens in the world.  The Gopaldhara Estate website says they've gardens ranging from 3000 to 7000 feet but does agree it's "one of the highest tea estates in Darjeeling."

- faintly sweet with vegetal notes and then a green spring whiff

The liquor is a fairly strong yellowy orange  -- darker than I would have expected of a classic first flush.
The liquor is surprisingly sweet like a pasta, quite brisk with a pleasing furry feel.  It has a light, bitter tang at the end for balance.

Gopaldhara 1st flush, Avongrove 2nd flush organic, Puttabong 2nd flush.

#2. DARJEELING Avongrove Estate - 2nd Flush Organic
Interestingly the website for Avongrove Estate, an organic estate, notes that it was bought in 2008 by a company called KPL International, an international business company "marketing chemicals, paper, polymers, and allied products."  I don't know what to make of that.

- a faintly toasty, deep sweetly fruity aroma with an end note of cat piss.  Yes, cat spray.  I have cats and my garden is regularly visited by male cats spritzing their territorial markings hither and thither so am quite familiar with it.

The colour is a deep marmalade orangey-brown.  Typical I've found of over-brewed 2nd flush Darjeelings.
The taste is profoundly bitter.  Too bitter for me and I don't understand why it's so after only 2 minutes with a cool infustion. 
#3. DARJEELING Puttabong Estate - 2nd Flush
The Puttabong Estate (aka Tukvar Estate) is apparently the oldest tea estate in Darjeeling and has gardens frm 1500 to 6500 feet elevation. It's owned by Jay Shree Tea & Industries Ltd in India which also owns estates in Assam, as well as a real estate division and plant producing superphosphate and sulphuric acid.  Interesting mix.  I guess.
A brief whiff of toasty before a snootful of a typical black tea note of robust warm hay barn.

Unfortunately this too is quite bitter although it's softer and less brisk.  There's a little bit of that pasta flavour but with more tang and much less sweet.  Overall this is just too one note-bitter to be interesting.  My fault for overbrewing, I'm sure.

As an afterward -- since it's 4 o'clock and I need a tea fix, I added milk to both the 2nd flushes and it made this one was reasonably drinkable.  The milk sweetened it just enough to off-set the bitterness and make it palatable.

No comments:

Post a Comment