Darjeeling tea field
I thought I was done blogging about Darjeeling, but it's first flush season!!! :-) What does that mean, "first flush" season? And why do people get so excited about it?
First Flush refers to the first growth spurt of the tea bush after the winter rest period. Picking begins when the tea bush says it's ready and that date varies each year. Generally, picking is underway by mid March. First flush teas are the most expensive of the Darjeeling teas. When I was in India we had a discussion of why this was so. It is due, in large part, to the intensive efforts required to grow among the steep hills in Darjeeling. The input required to grow the tea is large and the output per acres is less than other growing regions. And yet....that first flush tea is very unique in its flavor profile (floral and astringent), it's like nothing else. Because of this uniqueness, first flush Darjeeling tea is coveted and collected.
Darjeeling tea pickers, taken as we traveled down the mountain
It's worth noting that not everyone loves the flavor of first flush Darjeeling tea. Some people prefer second or later flushes. If you have the opportunity, sample a first flush Darjeeling side-by-side with a second flush. You'll quickly note the differences.
I'm planning a first flush 2012 order! I don't expect it to arrive until about May - but you can bet I'll write about it then!