For many of us, the first thing required to start our day, is a cup of refreshing morning tea. The idea of writting this post clicked me on recently observed International Tea Day on December, 15th. Interestingly the International Tea Day is celebrated twice, once on May 21st, which is observed by United Nations and again on December 15th, which is observed by the tea producing countries like India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia,Uganda and Tanzania.
Since, we are all still facing aftermath of COVID-19 and are not travelling since last one full year, here I present one of my very unique and pleasant experience from one of our past trips. I can still recall very clearly that beautiful evening of Christmas eve, few years ago. Reminiscence of which still bring smiles to me.
We were just strolling down The Mall in Darjeeling. The air was crisp and chilly. You can read more about our Darjeeling trip here. Apart from being a very beautiful hill station of India, Darjeeling is known world over for its tea gardens. Tea grown in this region of India is highly prized, leading many to call it “the champagne of teas”. At one end of The Mall, there is a flat open promenade named as Chowrasta (crossing). It is the epicenter of the cultural activities of the city. Tourists and locals come in huge numbers to lounge in the sun, on one of the many benches lying along the periphery, sipping one full cup of, one of the best tea in the world, watching the mesmerising vistas of Kanchenjunga and its valleys. There were several big tea shops selling tea leaves.
On entering a tea shop, the ‘Golden Tips‘; we got stunned with a feeling of awe by seeing hundreds of varieties of tea. A nice flowery aroma of tea was omnipresent. The employees greeted us and invited very humbly to take a seat.
They then started serving us different tea varities one by one. We had never tasted most of them earlier. Even the name of the teas were new to us. Earlier we only knew ‘Darjeeling Tea’ but now only we came to know that it was just an umbrella term. Black, White, Green, Blue may be just colours for us but in Darjeeling they refer to various types of teas, likewise Matcha tea, Oolong tea (also known as Wulong or Wuyi tea), Earl Grey tea, Masala tea are many other types available for the customers. It was really difficult to choose some among many.
It was the first time when we heard the word ‘flush’ in context of tea..:) The salespersons were using the terms like first flush, second flush etc. On enquiring, one of them told us that these terms are used to distinguish different tea productions on the basis of seasons. In India, tea plucking times are called flushes while in Japan and China, they are called harvests.
The Darjeeling First Flush Tea is one of the hightest ranked tea in the world. It is sourced during the first plucking of new leaves and buds from the late winter to onset of spring in March. Coming from the first harvest of the new season, this unique tea has a brisk, floral flavour with a light-coloured hue wheras the second flush tea is a product of early summer. The tea from this season is considerably darker compared to first flush. Apparently, it is more like a typical black tea. The leaves are dark brown and grey. Autumn flush tea looks quite a bit like second flush tea. Even taste wise they can appear very close and sometimes it is hard to distinguish them. Autumn flush tea is produced during October-November.
The first flush tea usually contains more nutrients, antioxidants and caffeine. Second flush tea leaves have generally less time to grow. However, they grow faster due to weather conditions as compared to the first flush which grows in harsh winter.
Finally we ended up purchasing some teas and tea accessories for ourselves and friends. It was a fabulous experience which we will remember always.