Here in France, May 1st is a public holiday. We are going to look at the flowers coming into bloom. We will go for a walk. Admire nature, in all its shades of green. Then we will sit down and contemplate it all. Take our time. Breath. Inhale the spring air. Feel the earth waking up. Listen. Listen to the birds singing, the leaves rustling. And then the kettle whistling.
When you read tasting notes on Darjeeling teas, you learn that the leaf can be more or less rolled, depending on the batch. This is what the rolling looks like. As soon as the leaves have finished wilting, on the upper level of the building, they are dropped (see photo) into this container, which has a press. Rolling, as it is performed in Darjeeling, takes just a few minutes. It prepares the leaves, by lightly crushing them, for the following stage: oxidation.
Assam teas have scents of honey, tobacco and spices and a very pronounced aromatic profile, unlike some of the flat countryside in this region. The teas are particularly astringent, and here too, the vocabulary used to describe this sensation contrasts with the words we might use to depict the landscape. Astringency is marked by a contracting of the tissues of the palate, while this beautiful field of tea relaxes me as soon as I see it.
Every year, the first-flush Darjeelings open the season, followed by the spring harvests in Nepal, then China and Japan. I have now started tasting the first samples of Nepalese teas. They come a few weeks after the Darjeelings, due to the harsher climate. Yet the two regions are not so far apart, barely a few days’ walk, and you could pass from one country to another without noticing it unless you pay attention to the signs.