Giddapahar Spring Gold 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea from Lochan Tea

As I prepared to write this post, I was reminded that it has been nearly five years since I began reviewing teas. That reminder came when I found that the last time I reviewed a tea from the Giddapahar Estate was back in 2013. It’s amazing to look back, read that review, and notice how my interpretation of smells and tastes have changed, and how the same product from the same estate has evolved.

The Giddapahar Tea Estate is located in the Kurseong Valley of West Bengal, India. The 95 hectares of tea gardens are situated at an altitude ranging from 4,500 to 5,200 feet above sea level, produce an average of 30,000 kilograms of tea per year, and consist primarily of traditional China and clonal tea bushes. The name Giddapahar translated into English means “Eagles Cliff”.

This sample of Giddapahar Spring Gold 1st Flush 2017 was provided by Lochan Tea. Many thanks to the Lochan family for their generosity in sending these samples.

Let’s get to the review…

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Giddapahar Spring Gold 1st Flush 2017 Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have the typical Darjeeling 1st flush variance in color, ranging from pale green to dark brown. The leaves are all medium to large fragments, with few bare stems, and some silver tips in the mix. The leaves have the standard rolled appearance. The aroma has scents of brown sugar, toasted oats, wild flowers, honey, and light cinnamon. It is a very sweet, enticing aroma.

Dry leaves were infused in 190°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Giddapahar Spring Gold 1st Flush 2017 Liquid

The tea liquid had a bright, pale yellow, honey-like color. The aroma had scents of roses, toasted oats, wild blowers, brown sugar, and light honey. The body was medium, with a silky, mellow texture that seemed to coat the tongue and throat as it passed. The taste had notes of roses, wild flowers, and lighter notes of toasted oats, honey, and brown sugar. The floral character dominated the taste, and the aftertaste maintained a lingering, dominantly floral character. The tea had a noticeable and tangible uplifting energy, which is something that I truly appreciate in a good quality Darjeeling 1st flush tea.

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Giddapahar Spring Gold 1st Flush 2017 Wet Leaves

The wet leaves have a fresh, pale green color, with spots of light brown. The leaves are medium to large fragments, with few whole leaves and buds. The leaves have a smooth, delicate feel. The aroma has scents of roses, wild flowers, lighter scents of honey, and what I would describe as black licorice, which was very interesting. I had to keep resetting my sense of smell to make sure that I was properly smelling the black licorice, but that is my conclusion.

In my opinion, Giddapahar Tea Estate continues to produce high quality Darjeeling style teas with an affordable price tag. The classic Darjeeling 1st Flush characters are dominant (floral and lightly sweet), and the uplifting energy is definitely there. The black licorice scent on the wet leaves was very nice, and I wish I had noticed it in the aroma or taste of the liquid itself. Overall, this was an excellent 1st Flush tea!

You can purchase the Giddapahar Spring Gold 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea from Lochan Tea at the price of USD $9.00 for 50 grams of tea.

Thank you for taking your time to read my review of the Giddapahar Spring Gold 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea!

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Rohini Jethi Kupi 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea From Lochan Tea

As I began this review, I looked back on the many times I flipped through my tea selections at home and my office looking for the perfect tea to match my energy each day. Over the past two years, I would think frequently how a fresh, first flush Darjeeling tea would satisfy my desire for something truly unique and unlike any other tea in my collection. For these past two years, I did not have such an option. You can only imagine the suffering I went through … the longing … the despair!

… So perhaps it was not quite as dramatic as described above, or else I would be embarrassed to admit how easy and shallow my life must be. Nonetheless, there were definitely times that I searched to the bottom of my collection hoping to find just a small leftover sample of Darjeeling, and walked away slightly disappointed to have found nothing.

As usual, when it comes to Darjeeling teas and those of the surrounding areas of northern India, the Lochan family again came to the rescue by sending a fine assortment of Darjeeling samples from this years first flush. Finally, my thirst will be satisfied, and I send another heart felt thank you to the Lochans.

If you are reading this blog, then you are probably already familiar with the unique character of first flush Darjeeling teas. If you are not familiar with them, then I cannot suggest strongly enough to find a tea shop with a fresh supply.

There is no descriptive words to really communicate the energy that can be so easily felt after sips of high quality first flush Darjeeling teas. This energy is not generated from the caffeine content and its physical effect on the body and mind, and is not interpreted using any of the typical senses (smell, taste, feeling, etc). In fact, there are few experiences that give such a palpable sense of life energy, in my opinion, than these particular teas from this particular harvest.

Many tea companies use marketing cliches like “Awakening” to describe the “energy” of their teas. Well, I will describe the energy of first flush Darjeeling teas of giving the true feeling and energy of “awakening”. After taking a sip, you feel the energy of the tea plants waking up after the hibernating season, the stored up energy regenerating the leaves and buds. You can feel the eagerness of the tea plant to grow and live. That energy is transferred from the leaves and buds to the water, and from the water to the consumer, if they are willing and able to identify, accept, and appreciate such a gift.

This particular sample is from the Rohini Tea Estate, located in the Kurseong valley of the Darjeeling region of northern India. Click the link above for more information on the Rohini Tea Estate.

Let’s get to the review.

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Rohini Jethi Kupi 1st Flush 2017 Sample Packet
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Rohini Jethi Kupi 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea Dry leaves

The dry leaves have the standard Darjeeling first flush colors, ranging from light green to dark brown. Their is a generous portion of silver, fuzzy tips. The leaves are rolled, and appear to be a two leaf and bud pluck. There are a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves appear to range in size from medium fragments to nearly full leaves. The aroma is very attractive and inviting. Although it seems out of place, and maybe I am misinterpreting what I smell, but it seems like I am getting a scent of roasted peanuts (in the shell), with sweet complements of vanilla, honey, light brown sugar, and sweet hay.

The leaves were infused in 190ºF water for 3:00 minutes. Two quality infusions were pulled from the leaves.

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Rohini Jethi Kupi 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea Liquid

The infusion produces a liquid with a bright, golden-yellow color. The aroma has scents of honey, vanilla, daisies, sweet hay, and roses. It has a light to medium body, with clean texture and a dry feel. The taste has notes of daisies, roses, vanilla, and honey. The aftertaste holds the floral, perfume-like taste, and the dry feel. Floral and sweet characters dominates the senses.

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Rohini Jethi Kupi 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea Wet Leaves

The wet leaves vary in color from fresh, light green to light brown. The pluck is two leaves and a bud. There is a variety of medium leaf fragments, full leaves, and buds. The leaves have a soft, delicate texture. The aroma has scents of daisies, sweet hay, vanilla, honey, and roses. As the leaves cool, the floral scents become stronger, while the sweet scents become lighter.

The Rohini Jethi Kupi 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea was a perfect solution to my thirst for Darjeeling first flush teas. The feeling and energy described as “Awakening” was present and strong. The floral character was rejuvenating, and yet the tea had a very drying effect on the tongue. The scent of the dry leaves will not be forgotten. This was a high quality product from Rohini Tea Estate.

You can purchase the Rohini Jethi Kupi 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea from the Lochan Tea website. They are offering 50 grams for USD $6.00 plus shipping.

Thank you for taking your time to read this rather long review! And another thank you to the Lochan Family for providing this sample to me!

 

Nepal First Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea from What-Cha

After a week of discomfort and inconvenience due to an unexpectedly intense treatment at the dermatologist, this week is ending with a happy note. I arrived at my office today to find a box of samples from a company that I have recently come across, What-Cha. I have seen a few other tea bloggers review some teas from What-Cha, and decided to reach out to them to see for myself what interesting products were being offered. While checking out their website, which you may visit here, I noticed quite a few unique products that I was eager to try. The Nepal First Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea was one of those which caught my attention.

The Nepal First Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea was sourced from the Greenland Organic Farm, located in the foothills of Mount Kanchenjunga in eastern Nepal. My research found that the altitude of the Greenland Organic Farm reaches 2,200 meters (7,200 feet)! I also found information stating altitudes of 3,000 meter (9,840 feet). Regardless of which number is more accurate, it is an impressive altitude. Along with high quality Chinese clonal tea bushes, the Greenland Organic Farm also grows arabica coffee beans, and produces my favorite specialty type of coffee known as peaberry. I do not drink much coffee, but I have been trained to recognize and appreciate good quality. At home, I have a medium roast Papua New Guinea Peaberry from Kiva Han Coffee. It is amazing.

Now, let’s see what Greenland Organic Farm and What-Cha are all about. The sample packet has been opened, and a fresh and potent scent is escaping the packet. Let the journey begin…

Greenland Organic Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Greenland Organic Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves range in color from pale forest green to yellowish-brown to dark brown. There is a generous portion of buds covered in fine silver hairs. Even some of the leaves have the silver hairs covering them. The pluck is easy to identify as two leaves and a bud, some of which are fully intact on the stem. There are no bare stems in the mix. The leaves appear to be hand-rolled, as they are quite light and fluffy, with some variance in the size and shape. There is certainly some light oxidation that occurred in the leaves, but this tea also has many characteristics of a white tea. The smell carries scents of fresh hay, dry oranges, light vanilla, light barnyard, and light spring flowers. The smell is quite potent and impressive. Below is a photo that was taken a little closer to the leaves, and shows the abundance of silver hairs on buds and leaves.

Greenland Organic Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea Dry Leaves Close-Up
Greenland Organic Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea Dry Leaves Close-Up

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 175°F (80°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 to 4:00 minutes. Expect at least three quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves, with minimal loss of character between the first, second, and third infusions. Add 30 seconds to each subsequent infusion steep time.

Greenland Organic Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea Infusion
Greenland Organic Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, pale yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of hay, honey, orange blossoms, and vanilla. The body is light, with a clean, silky texture, and a purifying, refreshing energy. The taste has notes of citrus (lemon and orange), hay, honey, vanilla, orange blossom, and light hyacinth. There is almost no astringency whatsoever. The aftertaste carries the hay and floral characters, and a pleasant, lingering floral essence is left on the breath.

Greenland Organic Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Greenland Organic Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a very fresh, light forest green color, with some leaves having slightly reddish edges, indicating the light level of oxidation. The pluck is clearly two leaves and a bud. There is a generous portion of buds in the mix. Many of the leaves are whole and unbroken, and the remainder are large fragments. The leaves have a smooth, delicate texture. These are beautifully produced leaves. The smell has carries scents of hay, vanilla, oranges, orange blossoms, and other fresh spring flowers.

My first impressions of What-Cha and Greenland Organic Farm are very positive! I just finished the third infusion of this Nepal First Flush 2014 Silver Oolong tea, and even using the higher temperatures and longer steep times, this tea has barely lost any of its character. The aroma continues to be potent and fresh, and the taste and mouth feel are very high quality. The leaves in both dry and wet forms appear to have been very carefully produced. This is an excellent crossover tea between the oolong and white types. Having thoroughly enjoyed this first product from What-Cha, I am very excited to work my way through the remaining samples.

Thank you to What-Cha for providing this sample of Nepal First Flush 2014 Silver Oolong Tea from Greenland Organic Farm. Cheers!

Shincha Hatsuzumi 1st Flush 2014 Green Tea from Yunomi.Us

Here is an interesting Japanese green tea that I have not opened in a few months, but certainly deserves a review. This is the Shincha Hatsuzumi (1st Flush 2014) Green Tea. This product was purchased from Yunomi.US. You may find the website by clicking here.

This Shincha Green Tea was produced on Tanegashima Island, one of the Osumi Islands, in the Kagoshima Prefecture of Japan. Tanegashima Island is fairly flat topographically, with the highest point being measured at 282 meters (925 feet) above sea level. Tanegashima Island produces little tea in comparison with other growing areas of Japan, so the May to Spring Shincha season produces the best quality sencha style teas coming from Tanegashima Island. As is common with Japanese teas, identifying the exact estate that provided the tea leaves in this product is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Especially considering that the leaves may have originated from several estates on Tanegashima Island.

As mentioned in earlier posts, Shincha is the Japanese green tea version of a first flush, or first harvest of a new growing year, tea. The aromas and tastes are generally known for being more delicate and complex than later harvests of the same growing year.

The retail package has been opened, and a sweet, grassy fragrance is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Shincha Hatsuzumi 1st Flush 2014 Green Tea Dry Leaves
Shincha Hatsuzumi 1st Flush 2014 Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform fresh and dark forest green color, with a slight gleam. The leaves are all small leaf fragments, with a considerable amount of crumbs. The leaves are machine rolled, and there are few stems in the mix. The tea leaves are steamed. The leaves are thin, needle shaped, and crack easily. The aroma has scents of fresh cut grass, very light brown sugar, and light dry seaweed.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to about 140°F to 160°F (60°C to 70°C). Steep first infusion for 1:00 to 1:30 minutes, second infusion for 0:30 minutes, then add 15 to 30 seconds to each subsequent infusion. Expect to get three or four infusions out of the same serving of leaves.

Shincha Hatsuzumi 1st Flush 2014 Green Tea Infusion
Shincha Hatsuzumi 1st Flush 2014 Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright yellowish-jade green color, with a slight haze, and very fine particulate. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, steamed spinach, steamed asparagus, and steamed seaweed. The body is light-medium, with light yet creamy, rich texture. There is a pleasant moderate umami character. The taste has notes of sweet grass, steamed spinach and asparagus, and steamed seaweed. The aftertaste is grassy, and a pleasing flowery essence is left on the breath.

Shincha Hatsuzumi 1st Flush 2014 Green Tea Infused Leaves
Shincha Hatsuzumi 1st Flush 2014 Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color, with the stems having a lighter fresh green color. The leaves are all small fragments. The leaves have a very soft, smooth, delicate texture. I can easily imagine putting soy sauce on these leaves and eating them for a post tea snack. The aroma continues the scents of fresh wet grass, steamed asparagus and spinach, and steamed seaweed.

The Shincha Hatsuzumi 1st Flush 2014 Green Tea impressed me the most with its unique texture, having both a light-medium body, but a rich and creamy feel. It is difficult to explain, but it was certainly different than sencha teas from later harvests. The aromas and tastes are very fresh and invigorating, promoting refreshment, relaxation, as well as a sense of heightened awareness. This green tea embodies all of the positive characteristics that Japanese green teas are so well respected for.

Thank you to Ian Chun at Yunomi.Us for working so hard to bring Japanese tea farmers and the rest of the tea consuming world together in one marketplace. Cheers!

FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush Darjeeling from Rohini Tea Estates and Lochan Tea

Earlier this week, I was greeted by a surprise delivery with my usual mail: an envelope from Lochan Tea containing a sample of the FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush tea from Rohini Tea Estates, in the Darjeeling district of India. This is the first year of my tea experience where I am able to taste truly fresh first flush teas from Darjeeling.

This sample was provided by Lochan Tea Limited. To read more about Lochan Tea, visit their website here. To learn more about Rohini Tea Estates, visit their website here.

The sample packet has been opened, and an uplifting scent of spring flowers is hitting me. Let the journey begin…

Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 Dry Leaves
Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from bright green, to reddish brown, to light and dark brown. There are a few silver tips, covered in downy-like hairs. The leaves are mostly small to medium fragments. The leaves are rolled. There are a few small bare stems in the mix. The aroma is fresh, with scents of light roses, very light lilac, and light cocoa.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes.

Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 1st Infusion
Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a dark golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of fresh flowers, light honey, light cocoa, and light sweet wood. The body is medium-full, with a lively, almost sharp texture. The taste has strong notes of hyacinth, lilac, and sweet wood. The aftertaste is very floral, with a flowery essence being left on the breath. This infusion tastes like a mouthful of fresh spring flowers, just as I was hoping for. The taste is actually stronger than I expected after feeling the aroma.

Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 2nd Infusion
Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a noticeably lighter shade of golden yellow color. The aroma lightened some, but retained the floral, light cocoa, and sweet wood scents. The body lightened to medium, and the texture softened some. The taste also lightened significantly, but retained the notes of hyacinth, lilac, and sweet wood. The aftertaste and essence were lighter, as well.

Due to time constraints and the strong possibility that the third infusion would be quite light in all respects, I decided to forego an analysis on the third infusion.

Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 Infused Leaves
Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 Infused Leaves

The infused leaves varied in color from fresh light green to pinkish-red to light brown. The leaves are mostly small to medium fragments. There are a few small whole leaves in the mix, and a few small bare stems. The leaves seem quite young and tender. The aroma is very fresh, with scents of wet spring flowers and light sweet wood.

This FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush from Rohini Tea Estates was a pleasant introduction to this years first flush teas from Darjeeling. I just received notification of a follow up package of first flush samples from other Darjeeling estates, so I look forward to comparing them all. With this sample, the wood aroma and taste note is something that I do not remember feeling in last years Darjeeling first flush teas. I follow Rohini Tea Estates, as well as Gopaldhara, and other Darjeeling estates through social media, and read that some areas were experiencing droughts this spring. I wonder if the woody notes can be attributed to these draughts. Regardless, the tastes of hyacinth and lilac were exactly what I look for in a first flush tea. These same flowers are finally blooming in my area. As a quick tangent, there is one family of deer who live in my part of the city of Pittsburgh, and they eat all of my spring flowers (crocuses, tulips) every year. This year, they even ate my white hyacinths! The daffodils are the only survivors this year.

Anyway… thank you very much to Lochan Tea for surprising me with this introductory sample of first flush teas. I will be keeping a close eye on the tracking information for the next round of samples to arrive. Cheers to Lochan Tea and Rohini Tea Estates!

Makaibari Estate, Darjeeling – First Flush Versus Autumn Flush Teas

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…

First Flush (Left), Autumn Flush (Right), Dry Leaves
First Flush (Left), Autumn Flush (Right), Dry Leaves
Makaibari Estate First Flush Dry Leaves
Makaibari Estate First Flush Dry Leaves
Makaibari Estate Autumn Flush Dry Leaves
Makaibari Estate Autumn Flush Dry Leaves

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.

First Flush (Left), Autumn Flush (Right)
First Flush (Left), Autumn Flush (Right)
Makaibari Estate First Flush Liquor
Makaibari Estate First Flush Liquor
Makaibari Estate Autumn Flush Liquor
Makaibari Estate Autumn Flush Liquor

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.

First Flush (Left), Autumn Flush (Right), Infused Leaves
First Flush (Left), Autumn Flush (Right), Infused Leaves
Makaibari Estate First Flush Infused Leaves
Makaibari Estate First Flush Infused Leaves
Makaibari Estate Autumn Flush Infused Leaves
Makaibari Estate Autumn Flush Infused Leaves

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!

 

 

 

Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 CH SPL EX1 1st Flush 2013 from Lochan Teas

After an extremely busy three weeks of tea package labeling, canister filling, performing training sessions, and a week of cupping exercises for my most recent World Tea Academy course, I finally have a moment on a Monday morning to do a tea review. Today felt like a Darjeeling day, and what better package of samples to choose out of than that from Lochan Tea?

On November 4th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to the Giddapahar Tea Garden, near Kurseong in the Darjeeling area of India. This sample of Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Flush 2013 was provided by Lochan Tea.

According to the Lochan Tea website, Giddapahar is a garden in Darjeeling with an elevation above 4,800 feet above sea level. Also known as “Eagle’s Cliff”, the small tea estate is family owned. The estate grows nothing but Chinese tea bushes. Like other Darjeeling teas, this tea is processed using the very hard wither, which gives it the large variation in dry leaf colors.

The sample packet has been opened, and the familiar and inviting smells of fruit and honey are emanating from the colorful dry leaves. Let the journey begin…

Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Fl 2013 Dry Leaves
Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Fl 2013 Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of this tea have a wide variety of colors, ranging from fresh green to red to dark brown and black. The leaves also vary in their size and shape. The leaves appear to very lightly curled and twisted. The leaves are mostly large fragments, with an occasional full leaf being present. There are no crumbs. The aroma of the dry leaves is very sweet, with notes of honey, fruit (muscatel grapes), and a touch of cocoa or chocolate. The aroma is complex, layered, and truly amazing.

The standard method of preparation was used for this sample. Purified water was heated to 200°F (96°C). The entire sample packet (15 grams) was placed into a 24 ounce (700 ml) ceramic teapot. The leaves were infused for 2 minutes, then strained into a separate decanter.

Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Fl 2013 1st Infusion
Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Fl 2013 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a golden yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma was floral, sweet of honey, and fruity of muscatel grapes. The body is medium, with a juicy and lush mouthfeel. The taste is floral (jasmine), sweet (honey), fruity (muscatel grape), with a slight note of wood or earth. The aftertaste is light and refreshing, with a jasmine taste. The last time I had a first flush that I enjoyed this much was the Gopaldhara Wonder Tea 1st Flush EX SPL 2013. These teas are absolutely exquisite.

Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Fl 2013 2nd Infusion
Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Fl 2013 2nd Infusion

As with every Darjeeling that I have had, the second infusion was lighter in every way than the first infusion. That being said, the aroma and flavor remained rich and tasteful. The notes of muscatel grapes dominated the taste of this second infusion. I had no problem finishing this pot of tea.

Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Fl 2013 3rd Infusion
Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Fl 2013 3rd Infusion

The third infusion was lighter than the second infusion in all aspects, but surprisingly fuller overall than I expected. A fourth infusion seems highly unlikely, as expected from this style of tea. The taste of jasmine dominated the taste of this third infusion.

Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Fl 2013 Infused Leaves
Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 1st Fl 2013 Infused Leaves

The infused leaves displayed the usual variation in green to brown colors that are characteristic of Darjeeling first flush teas. The leaves varied in size and shape, with more leaves being fulled intact than I originally expected. The size of the fully intact leaves confirmed that these leaves are from the pure China tea bush. The majority of leaves were fragments, with an occasional stem.  The leaves were fairly delicate, indicating that they are nearly exhausted of taste. The aroma is slightly floral and sweet, with the obvious smell being fresh wet leaves.

This Giddapahar SFTGFOP1 CH SPL EX1 1st Flush 2013 was in the top three Darjeeling first flush teas that I have had so far. The taste was complex and layered, yet delicate. This tea was beautiful in every aspect, from the dry leaves to the bright liquor, the aroma, the taste, everything was truly exquisite. It is a perfect example of what Darjeeling first flush teas are meant to be. There is no question as to why these teas are sought by connoisseurs all over the world. As always, thank you to the Lochan family and Lochan Tea Limited for giving me the opportunity to sample this amazing tea. I always know that a good review is coming when I choose one of Lochan’s sample packets.

Arya Ruby 1st Flush 2013 Darjeeling from Lochan Tea Limited

On October 10th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting delivered me to the Arya Estate, in the Darjeeling area of India. This sample was provided by Lochan Tea Limited. For more information on Lochan Tea Limited, please click here.

According to the Lochan Tea website, the Arya Estate has an altitude that ranges from 900 meters (2,700 feet) to 1,820 meters (5,460 feet) above sea level. Since I began my goal of starting a tea wholesale/retail business, I have tried quite a few Darjeeling teas. Up until recently, I always wondered what was different in the processing of Darjeeling teas that allowed them to be so colorful, yet still be considered a “black” tea. The difference, as I now know, is in the process used to wither the leaves. In the Darjeeling area, they use what is called a “very hard wither” prior to the oxidation process. This “very hard wither” causes the tea leaves to lose over 50% of the moisture content, in contrast to the black teas of Assam and Sri Lanka, where the “medium wither” causes the leaves to lose about 35% of the moisture content. Once the leaves are rolled, crushed, or otherwise prepared for oxidation to begin, there is less moisture in the leaves, thus less substance for oxygen to interact with during oxidation. This is the main difference in the processing of Darjeeling black teas which makes it appear so much differently than the black teas of other regions.

The sample packet has been opened, and a sweet smell of dried fruits, caramel, and cocoa are filling my office. Let the journey begin…

Arya Ruby 1st Flush Dry
Arya Ruby 1st Flush Dry

The dry leaves have the typical wide array of colors characteristic of Darjeeling black teas, ranging from green to dark brown, and every color in between, with an abundance of silver tips. The silver tips have a downy like fuzz covering them. The leaves are all fragments, and there is a moderate amount of crumbs. Considering that this is a sample packet, however, some crumbs are to be expected. There are a few bare stems as well. The leaves have a variety of sizes, and most appear lightly twisted and curled. The aroma is very sweet, with scents of dried fruit, caramel, and cocoa.

The standard method of preparation was used for this sampling. Eighteen ounces (550 ml) of purified spring water were heated to 195°F (90°C). Nine grams of dry tea were placed in a cast-iron tetsubin. The tea was infused for 2 minutes.

Arya Ruby 1st Flush 1st Infusion
Arya Ruby 1st Flush 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor that was a bright orange-red in color, clear and transparent. There was a moderate amount of particles (tea dust). The aroma was floral and spicy (nutmeg). The body is medium to full, with a mouth filling feel. The taste is floral (jasmine/hyacinth?) and spicy (nutmeg). The finish is sweet, with notes of caramel in the aftertaste.

Arya Ruby 1st Flush 2nd Infusion
Arya Ruby 1st Flush 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a considerably lighter colored brew, leaning more to the orange color. The aroma remains floral and spicy, but lighter. The body is also lighter. The taste remains mostly floral (jasmine), and spicy (nutmeg). The finish is less sweet, and more floral. I am not certain that the third infusion will have an acceptable taste.

Arya Ruby 1st Flush 3rd Infusion
Arya Ruby 1st Flush 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a considerably lighter colored liquor than the second infusion, leaning more to the yellow color with orange tint. The aroma is lighter, but remains floral and spicy. The body and taste are both lighter. The taste is lightly floral and spicy. The aftertaste is very light and floral. Although significantly lighter, I finished the pot. I am not sure if all tea drinkers would find this third infusion to be acceptable, but it got me through the last hour of work.

Arya Ruby 1st Flush Infused Leaves
Arya Ruby 1st Flush Infused Leaves

The infused leaves of this Darjeeling tea range in color from a dull light green to a reddish brown. There is little consistency in the size or shape of the leaves. There are some almost fully intact leaves, but the majority are fragments of various sizes. The smell is floral, and a little sweet. The leaves have the shape and size of the typical Chinese tea bush, which is the common type of tea that thrives in the Darjeeling area.

This Arya Ruby 1st Flush Darjeeling black tea was high quality and unique. The smell of the dry leaves was very enticing. The bright color, floral aroma, and spicy taste of the tea were very enjoyable, and separated it from other Darjeelings that I have had. The aftertaste of caramel was also different from other Darjeelings that many times have more of a honey taste. This tea was a nice “welcome back” to the world of Darjeelings, as I have spent the past month or so focusing on teas from China and Taiwan. By the time I am finished with these samples, I will be very much reacquainted with the Darjeeling area, and I am looking forward to it. Thank you for the opportunity, Lochan family.