The Margaret’s Hope garden is one of the best known in Darjeeling. Its reputation is justified by the quality of its teas and also because, from time to time, this plantation products batches of a truly remarkable quality. Of course, you have to taste many samples before finding a rare gem, but that is exactly what my work entails: drinking large quantities of different teas every day.
Last spring I bought a batch from Margaret’s Hope that I am sure you remember if you were lucky enough to taste it. The planter called it White Delight. And I have just chosen a Margaret’s Hope DJ512 which has such an incredible floral bouquet it is worth the detour too. For connoisseurs, it comes from the varieties P312 and AV2.
At the moment I’m tasting some delicious teas from Darjeeling. The autumn harvest (third flush) is early, and I have just chosen a Phuguri DJ168 as well as a Margaret’s Hope Pure Clonal DJ512; both are quite exceptional. They should arrive in France in about 10 days. As connoisseurs know, and to simplify a little, autumn Darjeelings are generally more woody than summer Darjeelings (second flush), which in turn are fruitier than spring Darjeelings (first flush). Whatever the season, though, these teas grow on mountains that offer breathtaking views.
From one country to another, one region to another, the organisation of tea production varies. Sometimes I visit huge plantations that cover whole mountainsides. But many independent farmers grow their own tea plants around their house, like here in the south of Sri Lanka.
Some tea plantations are really worth a detour. The one pictured here is situated on a tiny island off the coast of China. It is deserted apart from a handful of inhabitants and a few wild sheep. The island has an atmosphere of profound and palpable harmony.
Camellia sinensis grows very happily on steep terrain, as it doesn’t like water stagnating around its roots. In some regions of the world, like Nepal, or here in Darjeeling, the slopes are very impressive. As I travel around the countryside I often discover a little village clinging onto the hillside above a field of tea. Sometimes you wonder how the pluckers manage to harvest the leaves in such conditions.
It is not just France enjoying a clear blue sky at the moment. Camellia sinensis is happy in weather that sees rain alternating with cloudless skies. However, it also has a fondness for spells of mist.
Powerful and full-bodied, Assam teas are worth a detour. Yet these teas are still not that well known. If you like Burgundy wines, I recommend them. You will find the same astringency and lovely finish in the mouth, the spicy, woody notes sometimes accompanied by tobacco and honey aromas.
Don’t these cheerful pluckers make you want to learn more about their tea?
After several days of fine weather, the rain has returned, incessantly, in Darjeeling. Day and night. Heavy rain – without a break. Sometimes accompanied by strong winds and hail. With rain like this, nobody can produce good tea because the leaves grow too quickly.
Luckily, just as the rains started I bought three incredible batches: Puttabong Clonal Queen DJ232, Puttabong Kakra Muscatel DJ223 and North Tukvar Delmas Bari DJ101.
Among the best-known green teas in China are names such as Huang Hua Yun Jian and Yongxi Huo Qing. A couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to visit the villages that produce these two rare, delicate teas. I have a weak spot for the first one in particular.
It is difficult to imagine the number of hours it took me to get there, over mountains and passes, before finishing the journey on foot along a path of stone and mud. It just proves that the finest teas are worth it.
Margaret’s Hope has one of the best reputations among Darjeeling gardens. It has built this recognition mainly on its second flush teas, those harvested from mid May to mid June. However, it does also produce some very good first flush teas. Indeed, I have just bought a truly unique batch from Margaret’s Hope, made up almost entirely of buds. It looks like a white tea. It is exceptionally subtle. In the cup, it develops smooth, sweet, elegant qualities that are totally unique.
It is without doubt the very best batch of its kind produced by this garden in recent years. Tea drinkers with an educated palate and who appreciate the rarest fine teas will love it.