Yes, I know the year isn’t even half over and, yes, I know there are many tea adventures to be had in the months ahead, but sometimes something comes along that is so splendid that it can’t wait for the end of the year. Besides, the end of the year is so full of “best of” articles, that this one would get lost. I recently tried a tea whose “golden pour” was so outstanding that I had to go ahead and name it the year’s best.
In case you’re wondering what a “golden pour” is, read my article here.
The tea in question was a first flush Darjeeling. The best hit the market in April and May (some early arrivals were not quite at their best). This one was from a tea estate that has a fairly high reputation among Darjeeling growers and customers. It is also one whose tea I had tried previously from another vendor. That experience was … uh … er … um … well, let’s just say it was less than anticipated. And the vendor then claimed that I had improperly steeped the tea, although I had followed the instructions they had provided. Of course, that meant we approached with some trepidation this new sample that another vendor had sent from that tea estate.
The place in question is Makaibari. It was one of the first tea gardens started near Kurseong town in Darjeeling, India, at an elevation of around 1,500 meters. The factory at the garden is the world’s first tea factory and was established in 1859. Rajah Banerjee is the fourth generational owner. The garden and factory are now part of the trend toward tea tourism, and a recommended destination if you want to take on such an adventure.
While the aroma of the dry tea leaves was light and faded quickly once the pouch was opened, the leaves steeped up three very satisfying infusions.
- Light honey in aroma and color, with a gentle muscatel character, and honey notes in the aftertaste.
- Lighter but only slightly and with a more pronounced muscatel character that retained a faint honey tint; you could add a drop or two of honey to enhance this.
- Lighter overall but still tasty and almost akin to Concord grapes.
All three steeps produced a liquid that was gentle even as it cooled. In the past, some Darjeeling teas we’ve tried have turned a bit overly tangy as they cooled. This tea did not. That might be an indication that this tea would be a good option to served chilled.
The very fact that this tea from the same tea garden was a much better version makes it our “golden pour” of the year and emphasizes that you should try teas from the same garden/estate/plantation but through different vendors. And when you find that right combo, stick with it, if you can (tea vendors are a fleeting breed out there, coming and going quickly).
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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