What could be better than tasting tea all day for a living? …sampling some the finest Camelia sinensis brews on earth of course. Last month our lucky Tea Team inspected some of the tea plant’s most prized offerings when a selection of first flush samples arrived fresh from the mountainous tea gardens of Darjeeling. Here are some notes on this treasured tea type.
WHAT IS DARJEELING TEA?
Often called ‘the Champagne of teas’, Darjeeling tea has a lot in common with the famous French fizz. Like Champagne, Darjeeling tea cannot be grown anywhere else in the world other than the region in north-east India after which it is named. Also like Champagne, it tends to be rather more expensive than other black teas. Its value has a lot to do with the extreme conditions experienced in this area, and the unique and intense flavours they produce.
The small region of Darjeeling is in the foothills of the Himalayas where the terrain varies between high mountain elevations and deep gorges. This landscape, coupled with the effects of variable weather means the teas are very diverse in character and difficult to cultivate. In fact, in the North of the region, tea is grown at altitudes as high as 2200m and some of the slopes are so steep that plucking can be a real challenge. Although Darjeeling produces less than 1% of India’s total tea production its teas are coveted all over the world.
THE FIRST FLUSH IS THE DEAREST
‘First flush’ Darjeeling means the Darjeeling bushes’ first new shoots which are usually plucked in April. Owing to the harsh climate, the tea bushes go dormant over the winter months. When they return to action in spring, the young growth is full of flavour and therefore the first tea of the season is much sought after and demands high prices in the world tea auctions.
WHAT THE EXPERTS THOUGHT
William, Dominic, Saleh and co at Ahmad Tea HQ were lucky enough to taste samples from the top gardens in Darjeeling, characterised by a perfect green-brown leaf appearance with plenty of tips. Saleh said: ‘It’s a real highlight of our year in the Tea Department to get to taste some really amazing Darjeeling teas. We’ve tasted some beautiful cups, all with their own distinct character but also showing the typically astringent, aromatic and floral notes of the first flush.’ Ahmad Tea’s Darjeeling loose and teabag products are among our best-selling black teas and we look forward to introducing a limited edition first flush in the future.
Introducing Galerie du Thé – our new luxury tea brand
Unveiling a new range of rare luxury artisan teas from the world's most sought after tea gardens.
A (tea)potted history of Darjeeling
Learn about the 'land of the thunderbolt.' A brief history of the place that gives the wonderful speciality tea we know and love its name.
Ahmad Tea’s Very British Quiz
Think you know your cream tea from your builder’s tea? Test your knowledge on all things British and tea-related in our Very British Quiz.
The Perfect Cake for Afternoon Tea
We asked Eileen Donaghey, The Afternoon Tea Expert, to share her tips on the perfect cake to accompany a home afternoon tea.
Hibiscus infusions and your health: More than just a tasty brew?
Drinking infusions that contain hibiscus, which often gives the deep red colour in fruity herbals, could be good for your health.
How to make the best afternoon tea at home
Our Tea Taster, Dominic Marriott, and an afternoon tea expert explore how to make the best afternoon tea at home.
The Art of Tea Tasting
From selecting the finest teas that go into Ahmad Tea blends to checking those blends are up to scratch, our team of Tea Tasters are…
Tea in the Land of the Samurai
Exploring the history, geography, culture and production of tea in Japan.
Tea Around the World
Renowned as the epitome of Englishness, the cup of tea has a rich tradition in the British Isles. But there are many other countries where…