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First Flush news ……

30 March 2011

at 15:41 by john

I arrived in Kolkata at 8.00 Monday morning and by 10.00 I was tasting tea. A cool 25 degrees with a nice breeze…
First news was of the continuation of the strike up in the hills. The four main unions that represent the workers of the Darjeeling District have had been holding a transport strike in the gardens since March 3rd.

Manufacture has been continuing as normal but not a leaf has officially left the factories. Samples that are usually sent ahead for the brokers, agents and buyers in Kolkata were also restricted and there are union men in all the factories to check. However samples had been sneaked out in the night from the gardens that had started producing and there were plenty to try when I arrived.

By the end of the first day I had cupped 116 teas……that’s my kind of a day. All but 20 of the gardens in Darjeeling settled with their unions last night.

The remaining gardens are expected to settle their differences in the next day or two. The First Flush is back on track and all this will have been a forgettable hiccup.

On the manufacturing side the weather over the last few weeks has been perfect. The 150 or so bright, clear and sweet Darjeelings I have cupped in the last few days show all the signs of a good, perhaps a great, year.

Today the big cricket game between India and Pakistan, an 8 hour battle between the 2 big rivals in the semi-final of the World Cricket Championship. (Imagine Canada play Russia in the hockey but add the imaginary scenario that Canada and Russia were once the same country and have been at war on and off for over 50 years..)

Tonight we pick up the Japanese Tea Producers from the airport and tomorrow up to Darjeeling then Nepal to start the Green and Black Tea Exchange Project.
Watch this space for more news….

Kevin, your man in Darjeeling.

The Nilgiri Parkside

2 March 2011

at 20:33 by john

The Nilgiri Parkside, arrives late each February to begin the year’s teas.
It is an unusual looking tea with its green flakes and dark wiry leaf combination.

Nilgiri Parkside Tea Spring 2011

On tasting the lively liquor is an eccentric blend of green spring freshness and a smooth barley-sugar sweetness.
Well structured with balance and finesse.

The base of this tea is the plant material; the leaf used is the clonal CR6017 which is a high quality ‘China’ type cultivar. ‘CR’ from the Craigmore Estate where the plant was originally cloned this tea is one of Nilgiri’s three top quality clonals along with the UPASI 3, TRF 2  (UPASI The United Planters’ Association of Southern India ).

Parkside, Nilgiri, India

This leaf comes from a section of the Parkside Estate that is pure CR6017.  During the first cooler weeks of the year the flavour compounds in the leaves are at their best and a very fine pluck is used to focus on the tenderest new shoots.  Once in the factory a hard wither reduces the leaf moisture over 65%.  The relatively thick stem of the CR6017 absorbs more moisture than many other cultivars leaving the leaf-borders completely dry.  These extremities of the leaf will thus remain green and will flake during the rolling.  It is these flakes that are responsible for the green characteristics of the flavour profile.

The withered leaf is then loaded into a 36” deep-well, double-action rolling table in which it is rolled for an hour without any vertical pressure application.  As a result, the final product is the complete leaf or “big bulk” and almost all (more than 90%) whole leaf.  Smaller particles such Brokens, Fannings or Dusts are of negligible quantity so the leaf is not graded and is packed complete and rushed by air from the garden to us.

What a wonderful way to start the year!

Cheers,
Kevin.

 
 

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