An unusual season

The Darjeeling season is going to be a strange one. The really amazing teas are priced out of reach (30% to 50% higher than in previous years) to compensate, the planters say, for the losses they sustained during the 105 days of strikes last year. So far I’ve bought, on the best possible terms, the following: Mission Hill DJ4 SFTGFOP1 Clonal, Puttabong DJ14 SFTGFOP1 Clonal Exotic, Puttabong DJ12 SFTGFOP1 Clonal Queen, Orange Valley DJ5 SFTGFOP1 cultivar China, Balasun DJ6 SFTGFOP1 Himalayan Mystic, and  Rohini DJ15 FTGFOP1 Exotic White, all exclusive. They’re of a remarkable quality and will delight enthusiasts. For those wanting first-flush Darjeelings at lower prices, you’ll have to wait. Firstly, the only teas that are cheap are very poor quality, and secondly, even the mediocre teas are priced high, or very high. They’re absolutely not worth it. To sum up, this year requires more vigilance than usual.

For fans of Himalayan teas who aren’t focused on Darjeeling, and who are looking for good deals, why not wait for the Nepalese teas? They’ll be ready soon and often represent excellent value for money.


Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

Timid shoots

In Darjeeling, the years go by, and each one is different. In a little over 30 years, I’ve never known anything like the current situation. To remind you, a strike lasting 105 days prevented any work from taking place on the region’s 87 plantations between June and October. When the separatists finally removed the blockades, it was time for Durga Puja – the local version of Christmas. After the plantations had been abandoned for months, the workers then had to set about taming the jungle. The problem was that some of them had fled the conflict to find work in the valleys. And that’s where we are now: the tea plants were pruned very late – some at the end of December – which means that we’re still waiting for the Darjeeling spring harvest. On Wednesday 14 March, a few rare and timid shoots appeared on the tea plants (photo). Of course, so-called first-flush Darjeelings have been on the market for more than a month: that’s the magic of spring Darjeelings, they’re being sold before they’ve even been harvested. This is because some low-altitude plantations, which benefit from a warm climate and irrigation systems, can produce small quantities of tea during the winter. They falsely call them spring teas. Which is sad, as they are nothing like the leaves harvested from the plants in which the sap rises slowly, and which produce the unique tea that has made Darjeeling famous.


Posted in Spring by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

An assessment of the 2015 first-flush Darjeelings

blog-23-04-2015

When you harvest the terminal bud of the tea plant several times, the stem becomes stressed and stops producing a new bud. This phenomenon of dormancy, known as “banjhi” in Darjeeling, marks the end of the spring harvest (first flush).

If I had to give my assessment of this season in Darjeeling, I’d say we received batches of very varying quality, and few of exceptional quality. But I’ll conclude on a good note, with the choice of a Puttabong Clonal Queen DJ48 and a Margaret’s Hope Tippy Clonal DJ30. The first represents what Puttabong does best; the second is quite simply breathtaking.


Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

Tea is also about people and feelings

blog-17-04-2015

Behind each “grand cru”, each tea, there is work, there are people. My work, as I see it, is not limited to tracking down the best teas in the world, it also involves getting to know the people who produce it. Drinking tea with them. Listening to them talk about their product. So when I’m in a Palais des Thés store and I look at that impressive wall of canisters, it’s not the names of the teas on the labels I see, but faces, like that of Vikas Gajmer, manager of Castleton (Darjeeling).


Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

Darjeeling spring harvests

blog-10-04-2015

It’s not only the tea plantations that are busy at the moment. Yesterday I received no less than 120 different tea samples to taste. As ever, you need to be quick. If I want to make an offer on one of these batches I must have tasted them all in one or two days at the most. After that, it will be too late.

Of course, I don’t drink all the teas, I spit them out after turning the liquor around in my mouth while I analyse it.


Posted in Country : India, Places I like in Darjeeling, Professional tasting by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : ,

The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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