Teas plucked in the spring are considered to be the best in many production regions. China is no exception, when it comes to green teas at least. In this country, teas from prestigious places (Long Jing, Bi Luo Chun, Huang Shan Mao Feng and many others) that are plucked before the Qingming festival at the beginning of April are in such high demand that they become unaffordable.
That’s it! I’ve just finished choosing the first flush Darjeelings. I’ve tasted up to 200 samples a day for just over a month, and have finally narrowed it down to the best. This year, some plantations have achieved a better quality than in previous years. This is notably the case with Hilton, Rohini and Teesta Valley. Other reliable gardens like Puttabong, Margaret’s Hope and Singbulli have surpassed themselves.
I have also thought of those who are not yet familiar with first flush Darjeelings, and have selected a Gielle DJ117, which is more approachable for the palate.
Overall, it is fair to say that the quality of the 2013 harvest is significantly higher than in previous years. It has been a long time since this region last experienced a spring unaffected by either excessive cold or severe drought.
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.
Some teas suffer from being infused in water that is too hot. On this subject, I’d like to tell you that you cannot make a good cup of tea if the water has been boiled, even if it is then left to cool down. In fact, when water boils, the oxygen evaporates, and the tea leaves need this oxygen during infusion to release all their flavours and aromas.
Gradually, tea is coming out of its teapot: more and more chefs are using it as an ingredient in their cooking. First there was baking with matcha; now tea is making itself more at home in the kitchen as a flavouring for savoury dishes.
Tea is also served as an accompaniment to food, like here at Yam’Tcha, in Paris, where a pu erh is paired with a chicken dish, poularde de Bresse.