The Darjeeling's Annual Flavour Cycle

September 3, 2020
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Often referred to as the 'Champagne of Black Teas’ the tea of the Darjeeling region in the North Indian foothills of the Himalaya, offer a panoply of rich and complex aromas. Seasonal variables play an essential role in creating the aromatic profile of each ‘flush'.  Up here in the mountains the calendar is divided into four distinct seasons.  Here we explain the specific character of each of these harvests.

Spring or First Flush (March – April)

The cool, dry Himalayan Spring offers an optimal balance between the sun’s heat and rainwater which awakens the plants from their dry winter dormancy and enhances the quality of the harvest. This slow, yet progressive growth that the crops are picked, according to the region’s standard, which is from the bud out to the two first leaves.

The transformation begins with a long withering, known as a ‘hard-wither' which removes a large quantity of moisture in the leaves (often more than 70%), this explains why the First Flush is often quite green in appearance. The subsequent oxidation on the partially dried leaves, captures the precious aromatic chemistry that is the trade mark of these Spring teas. The final leaf composition is a blend of silver buds with light, dark and green leaves.

Whether lightly rolled, for sophisticated and supple new taste trends, or tightly rolled for a more classic and full-bodied flavour profile, they are renowned for their vibrant, floral and fruity liquors, embodied by that greenness best suited for that early Spring thirst for aromatics. It is also the season that truly reflects the flavour diversity of the region as each garden’s specific signature flavour is more apparent at this time. Each tea is a reflection of its terroir: the type of plant, the know-how and the pre-harvest climate which inevitably have a unique impact from one lot to another.

Summer or Second Flush (May – June)

The Summer harvest is generous and offers beautiful, bright and juicy leaves. The rolling process induces the release of its luscious juices while the oxidation benefits from the heat and humidity to transform its flavour and darken its shine.The liquor is coppery, woody and generally structured. Black teas lovers rejoice at the accents of ripe fruit, citrus and muscat, all are at their peak. Warm hints of spice and brown sugar are also typical of the Second Flush.

Monsoon (July – August)

The next growth cycle occurs in the midst of the warmest and rainiest period of the year, resulting in an abundant harvest from accelerated growth. The juices and flavours are therefore concentrated and thus naturally diluted. As such, the teas produced during the monsoon period, are often full-bodied and darker, mainly serve to feed the production blends of the "morning teas".

Autumn (October – November)

During the Autumn harvest as dry climate and cold nights dominate, the growth of plants is greatly slowed down. This slight "climatic stress" can help produce exceptional teas, similar to the ones from the Spring season The brown, ocher and silvery leaves, offer soft and woody liquors, with caramelized and floral aromas are quite appealing.

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