Welcome to Darjeeling First Flush 2021 - The Champagne of teas
Finally, it has arrived. The most anticipated moment of the year for tea lovers is upon us as the Darjeeling district springs to life at the sign of the First Flush, and black loose leaf tea samples begin to flow in from the finest tea fields in the world.
This year, the highly prized harvest from the mountainous Indian tea fields in West Bagel arrived right on time and in the right conditions, midway through a warm, slightly wet yet humid March. In the week following, the supple young leaves were picked, delicately rolled and dried, as is customary for Darjeeling black teas, to then arrive in the hands of our resident tea experts. In just a fortnight, the fields have yielded their finest expression, and our tea experts have received, taste-tested and quality assured hundreds of samples.
Overall, the consensus is that 2021 is certainly an interesting, superior year for the crop with benefits over the 2020 harvest, which was challenged due to the trickle-down effects of COVID and lack of deliveries available. Whilst we will be introducing you to how this crop came to be within this article, including what you can expect in this years harvest if you would like to explore previous years, we have articles on Darjeeling 2019 and Darjeeling 2020.
Notes on the Region and Darjeeling Climate
Darjeeling is a city and municipality with a settlement that dates back to the early 17th Century and is located in the North East of India, within West Bengal, with Nepal and Putan seen either side.
The region itself is steep-sloped and covered by dense forest. It sits at an elevation of 2000 meters above sea level and lays at the Eastern Himalayas' rocky foothills with a fairly acidic soil. Daily, brisk, fresh alpine air gently blows across the sloping region, which otherwise generally has a temperate climate throughout the year. Characteristically, the Winter months in Darjeeling are mild just as the summers are too with an average maximum across the year spanning from an average minimum temperature of -6C in the Winter to an average maximum temperature of 71C in the Summer.
With a location situated on the steep sloping hills and a consistently high rainfall, which is especially torrential during the monsoon rainy season Summer months (June, July, August), the region experiences high humidity above 92% throughout the year and a sky usually filled with scattered clouds.
Depending on where a tea estate is nestled on the steep slopes, microclimates can be seen, which can exhibit a wild variation in quality and character of the leaves from the tea plants.
Whenever we sample the Spring harvest delights, this is something that we love to represent in the range that we bring to The Tea Makers of London. With this, you can easily explore your way through the garden harvest of Darjeeling with authenticity.
This 2020/2021 Climate in Darjeeling
Over the past year, Darjeeling has experienced a colder forecast than usual. 2020 ended with a bitterly cold, frosty winter that extended its way up until the last week, where uncharacteristically warm, wetter weather followed Spring's arrival which allowed the tealeaves to burst into life.
What this year's weather means for the First Flush
Following a late harvest in 2020 brought about by COVID restrictions across the region, many plantations managed to miss out on capturing the full magic of a First Flush Darjeeling tea at its peak. This was devastating for the Tea Makers of London. The leaves harvested were just a little more mature than the tender young tips highly prized for their delicate fruity notes. However, there were still some fine examples that we managed to bring to our customers.
This year, farmers have seen the potential for an exceptional year, and they were not wrong. Following the autumnal flush, the plants were subjected to a frigid winter which slowed their growth and stimulated the production of a considerably higher number of amounts of amino acids and nitrogenic compounds. Of course, the adequate rainfall throughout this process was just perfect for the plant to receive the nutrients that it needed to without the additional stress of drought.
As Spring arrived with uncharacteristically warm weather, the leaves began to sprout. As is entirely characteristic of Camellia Sinesis during the First Flush growth, the enzymatic activity was high within the leaf which, in combination with the large storage of amino acids and nitrogenic compounds, managed to get distributed beautifully throughout the leaf, yielding an exceptional harvest and quality of leaf.
What you can expect from The Tea Makers
From what we have seen, smelt and tasted so far, Darjeeling 2021 has resulted in a diverse crop at its peak, with each tea garden producing exceptionally delicious tea leaves.
We are very thankful to the farmers who, year after year, work on our behalf to bring exceptional teas, and we anticipate expanding the range to represent the variety of flavours from across the region authentically. You can expect some very light, delicate fruity teas all the way until some darker, more full bodied muscatel examples. Certainly, all of these teas will be from a single estate, and we believe that they will represent the truest expression of the region.
We anticipate that these exquisite teas will be added to our collection over the coming weeks for immediate delivery, however, they will be in extremely limited supply as, in many cases, they will arrive from a single micro-btch.
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