Those darling Darjeeling teas show up in a variety of tea blends, adding their unique flavors and creating a new taste sensation in your teacup. What determines how Darjeeling teas affect the tea blend’s taste depends on which flush is used.
Generally, the flush descriptions (according to the Darjeeling Tea Association) are:
- Spring Flush — Late Feb. thru Mid April — Young leaves that infuse to a light green tea with a flavor described as “pleasant” and “brisk.”
- Summer Flush — May thru June — A prominent quality, with leaves having a purplish bloom and infusing to a bright liquid with a full, round taste and a fruity note.
- Monsoon Flush — July thru Sept. — The leaves infuse to a stronger tasting liquid, yet keep the brightness and character.
- Autumn Flush — Oct. thru Nov. — Large leaves that infuse to a round tasting and coppery-colored liquid.
You can see how the flush used will make a big difference. Of course, different flushes are often blended together before adding them to other teas. This means you could get a combination of the above in your tea. The challenge will be on training your tea nose and your tea palate to pick them out when sipping your tea. Adding further to the possibilities are the elevation and the specific estate where the teas are grown. However, often these teas are blended together to give a more homogeneous flavor to the cup.
Try honing your tea appreciation skills on some tea blends like these that include Darjeeling teas:
- Golden Moon English Breakfast Tea— a blend of Keemun, Assam, Ceylon, and Darjeeling.
- Some Irish Blends — combining the malty goodness of Assams with the fruity/floral notes of Darjeelings.
- Many pre-made Chai Blends — Darjeelings are often some of the black teas included in pre-made chai blends, along with Assams, Kenyans, Tanzanians, and Keemuns.
Darjeeling blends don’t always involve mixing them with different teas. Often, the different flushes from different estates are sold to a tea company that blends them together into a sort of generic “Darjeeling tea.” On the plus side, you get better consistency when you steep up a cup or potful. On the minus side, if you prefer the lighter taste of a Spring Flush versus, for example, the rounder tasting Autumn Flush, you would not want a blend. The other minus is that inferior leaves can be blended in with better quality teas.
Other Darjeeling blends involve “cutting” the tea by blending with other teas (often still labeling them as “Darjeeling”). According to Jon Stout of Golden Moon Teas, Darjeeling is in such demand that it is often blended with non-Darjeeling teas to meet market demand, confirmed by the statistic that roughly four times as much Darjeeling tea is sold as is harvested. You may or may not see this on the product label. Just something to keep in mind, especially if you aren’t getting that characteristic “champagne” quality.
Your choices here are sort of like visiting a new town and deciding between the known, such as McDonald’s, and the unknown, such as a local café, for your lunch. Which you choose depends in part on your spirit of adventure. Enjoy!
Stop by Tea Time with A.C. Cargill for more on the wide world of tea!