SEASONS OF TEA
As all tea lovers know, the unique terroir of Darjeeling and the artisanal processing methods used on the most well reputed estates are essential to the complex and distinct flavour of Darjeeling teas. However just as importantly, the flavour of the tea also develops depending on the seasons of the harvest.
The first harvest of the year is in Spring, also known as First Flush, and typically takes place between late February and April. First flush harvests consist of the delicate first shoots of the tea plant that has been left untouched during the dormant Winter months, when the plant is nourished with a copious amount of cool mist and rain. The tender, pale green buds announce the arrival of Spring, the season of new beginnings. Prized for their exceptionally refined flavour, first flush tea leaves possess a light olive hue with silver tips and yield a pale golden infusion with natural notes of flowers and nuts.
Second flush harvests are hand-picked during Summer, generally between June and mid-August. The tea leaves from the second flush have a purplish bloom that infuses to a dark amber liquor and a fruity flavour – in contrast to the first flush teas. Allowing the tea plants to grow organically and remain the way Mother Nature intended results in the development of a fruity, muscatel flavour. This is achieved by the tea plant reacting to small insects extracting juices from the stems during the Summer season. This natural process is also what makes the fruity muscatel flavour of Darjeeling tea so unique and impossible to replicate anywhere in the world.
We invite you to taste the flavour of each season with TWG Tea!
DARJEELING TEA TASTING
A delicate art form, the routines and rituals of tea tasting are a highly regarded exercise among those with the most discerning palates. Both scientific and artistic, articulating the intangible nuances of Darjeeling teas is a unique skill developed over many years and thousands of teas. Recognizing the complexity of such teas is like having the memory on your tongue - your taste buds feel it all, recalling certain nuances and experiences.
Step 1: Infusion
To begin the process, TWG Tea tasters infuse the tea leaves in individual sized, ceramic white infusion pots. The small pitchers are unique to the Darjeeling tasting ritual, with short sharp spouts akin to a bird’s beak. The infusion pot comes with a fitted lid used towards the end of the tasting where the infused wet leaves are displayed in their full glory, allowing the tea taster to take in the wafts of aroma and notes of sweet, fruity, malty, tart from the fresh harvests. Teas are infused for about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the selection.
Step 2: Tasting
In order to allow the tea leaves to develop their full potential, matching white porcelain cups without handles best show off the tea’s quality, aroma and colour. The tea infusions are poured out into the white porcelain cups with the lid held tightly on and the pot propped horizontally into the bowl. The infusion pot lies snugly in the bowl with the lid firmly pinched shut as the leaves are completely drained. The pot is then removed from the tea bowl, lid turned over with the wet tea leaves in a neat mound for the tea tasters to smell and inspect the quality.
TWG Tea Tip: When tasting Darjeeling, look at the liquor for the depth of colour and clarity, then taste for briskness, quality, strength and aroma.
Step 3: Selection
To delight tea connoisseurs, TWG Tea tasters have sampled the globe to bring in a curated selection of single estate Darjeeling First Flush Harvests flown directly from illustrious gardens – Okayti, Orange Valley, Phuguri, Puttabong... each carefully picked by hand, processed and handcrafted in the most natural and artisanal fashion to produce an exceptional cup of Darjeeling tea.
FROM TEA LEAVES TO TEAPOT
The secret behind a very fine Darjeeling tea is the entire process, right from cultivation to harvesting to the way you look after the plant. Known as the Champagne of Teas, every harvest from renowned Darjeeling estates is unique and unlike any others, and every tea is processed and handcrafted in the most artisanal way.
Darjeeling tea production is one of the most labour-intensive processes in the world. Harvesting is done by hand, and only the two leaves and a bud are picked. It takes approximately 20,000 to 22,000 shoots to produce 1kg of Darjeeling tea.
The green leaves are evenly spread, allowing air to be passed through in a regulated manner to slowly evaporate moisture over a period of 14 to 18 hours.
During the rolling process, the withered leaves are twisted and cell walls are broken. This process releases the natural juices that promotes oxidation.
Leaves are spread in very thin layers under cool and humid environment to allow the rolled leaves to slowly oxidise. The process lasts between 1 to 4 hours, depending on the temperature, humidity and quality of the tea leaves.
The rolled leaves are taken for firing or drying for about 20 to 25 minutes, to stop any further oxidation and remove any extra moisture.
The final stage is to sort and separate the dried leaves into different grades through vibrating sifters with various sized meshes.
Finally, these Darjeeling first flush harvests are handcrafted in the most natural and artisanal fashion to produce an exceptional cup of Darjeeling First Flush Tea that you cannot replicate anywhere in the world.
This is the story of how our teas are grown, picked, processed and served to ensure the very finest cup of TWG Tea for you.