Today, I decided to take a slightly different angle on reviews. Rather than focus on the characteristics of one tea over multiple infusions, I decided to focus on the difference between a Darjeeling First Flush tea and an Autumn Flush tea. Both of these teas are from the same estate in Darjeeling, India, the Makaibari Estate.
As far as I know, these two teas are from the same bushes, same altitudes, and receive the same general processing techniques (please email me and correct me if I am wrong on this). Therefore, the primary difference between these two teas is one thing, the season in which they are harvested. The first flush is harvested in the Spring after the hibernation period has ended, and the Autumn flush is harvested in the Autumn before the next hibernation period sets in.
In a future post, when I have a little more time to focus, I intend on doing a side-by-side-by-side comparison that will include all three flushes, First, Second, and Autumn, from the same estate in the Darjeeling area of India, the Jungpana Estate. For now, let’s get back to the comparison at hand, the Makaibari Estate First Flush versus Autumn Flush. Let the journey begin…
As you can see in the comparison photos, there is very little difference between the first and autumn flush teas in the appearance of the dry leaves. Both have leaves with a variety of colors ranging from green to red to dark brown. If anything, the Autumn flush leaves look a little brighter in color, perhaps an indication of it’s freshness compared to the Spring Flush which is about six months old. Both teas have leaves with a high level of variation in size and shape, with some stems visible. All leaves are fragments, none are fully intact.
The difference in the aromas, on the other hand, is profound! The First Flush is very floral and sweet (dried fruit, grape). The Autumn Flush is sweet also, but more like molasses and brown sugar. I found the Autumn Flush to also have a spicy scent to it, almost like cinnamon. I was truly intrigued by the difference in the aromas. Two opposing forms of sweetness. What’s most interesting to me is that the aromas seem to represent the familiar aromas of their respective seasons. The first flush had strong floral notes, representing the smell of flowers in the spring. The autumn flush was sweet and spicy, representing the food and drinks that come with the Autumn and winter holidays.
Both of these samples were prepared using the same parameters. Purified water was heated to 200°F (96°C). Nine grams of each tea were placed in separate twenty ounce (570 ml) teapots. The leaves were infused for two minutes and thirty seconds, then strained into separate decanters.
Before preparing these teas, I expected the Autumn Flush to have a darker color than the First Flush. To my surprise, it was quite the opposite result. The First Flush had a dark gold color with a reddish tint. The Autumn Flush had a lighter shade of golden-yellow with a bronze tint. Both liquors were clear and transparent. The aromas were very different again. The First Flush had a strongly floral (roses?), and delicate with a light scent of fruit (grape). The Autumn Flush had a spicy, sweet, and floral aroma. The dynamics of the aromas were completely different. I was also surprised by the fact that I found the First Flush to have a fuller body and feel than the Autumn Flush. Both had medium bodies, but the Autumn Flush felt slightly lighter overall. The tastes were also quite different, but did share one character, a floral (jasmine) note. The First Flush had a very strong jasmine floral flavor and aftertaste. The Autumn Flush also had a jasmine floral note (not nearly as strong as First Flush), but also had a slight spice (cinnamon) note. The Autumn Flush had a sweet (molasses and brown sugar) aftertaste that did not linger as long as the First Flush aftertaste.
We read and hear about how some people can feel the energy of the tea. Honestly, until this session, I had a hard time feeling and understanding this concept. I can tell you, with pure sincerity, that I was able to feel the difference in the energies between these two teas. It was an amazing realization for me. The First Flush had a cool, delicate, and almost quiet energy to it. It felt like an energy that would exist in cool weather months (the hibernation period). As the first harvest of the new year, the First Flush teas have been storing energy during the cold hibernation months, and I could feel that energy in the tea. The Autumn Flush had a warm, bright, and loud energy to it. This energy felt like that which exists in warmer months, when nature is lively, enjoying the sun and warmth before the cold sets in. This experience has me truly excited to do the next comparison that will include a second flush, just to feel and compare the energy of that flush as well.
The infused leaves of these teas were again very similar in appearance, with a wide range of colors, and little uniformity in size and shape of the leaf fragments, with some stems. The Autumn Flush leaves appeared slightly brighter and fresher in color. The aromas were quite different, with the First Flush having a fragrant scent of jasmine and a light scent of grape. The Autumn Flush also had a floral scent, but I would not identify it as jasmine, and also had a touch of spice to it. Again, these two aromas were surprisingly different.
In the end, I cannot say that I have developed a clear preference for one flush over the other in this case. I am slightly overwhelmed by my experience with the differing energies of these teas, and it has made it difficult to say that one is better than the other. What is amazing to me is how much of a difference is caused simply by the season of the year that the tea is harvested during. It seems so insignificant of a variable, and yet it is, in reality, so powerful of a factor. I can honestly say that this was among the most impressive learning experiences with tea that I have had to this point, and it has certainly opened the doors of opportunity for much more interesting review and comparison posts.
Another thank you to the Lochan Family from Lochan Teas Limited for providing these samples to me, and always keeping me updated on their fresh products. I really enjoy working with and learning from them. They have been excellent guides to me in my tea tasting journey through the world of Darjeeling (and some Assam) teas. Thanks again, Lochans! Cheers!