Fall made an appearance this week in Southern California. I got to break out the fuzzy socks, if only for one brief shining moment. With a nip in the morning air and the heater actually turning on, there was nothing better to accent it all than a tea cupping session.
Golden Tips Tea had sent me an amazing assortment of black teas, and among them were five Darjeelings from separate estates. Each estate name so beautiful and intriguing, it was an exercise in restraint to allow each tea to steep for 2.5 minutes (a time chosen randomly by me, by the way. I typically steep longer than recommended, but that's just my taste).
Which would be my favorite? Would they all be very similar? Very different? Let the tasting begin!
Okayti Muscatel Darjeeling - From the Okayti Estate, this tea was plucked on June 3rd, 2014 and is a Second Flush Darjeeling. A deep, burnt orange colored liquid, this tea is rich, robust and full of tannins. Being one of the first slightly chilly days this fall, I really enjoyed the notes of roasted chestnut and, do my taste buds deceive me, a hint of lavender.
Gopaldhara Darjeeling - From the Gopaldhara Estate, this tea was plucked on April 6th, 2014 and is a First Flush Darjeeling. The light yellow liquid tastes of spring and sunshine. There's the faintest hint of grass and I could see this being a perfect, mellow afternoon companion.
Giddapahar Muscatel Darjeeling - From the Giddapahar Estate, this tea was plucked on June 8th, 2014 and is a Second Flush Darjeeling. This, too, offered a roasted essence and a deep amber color, but the flavor was more earthy and savory than the Okayti Muscatel. I found myself lingering over this cup and coming back to it again and again.
Arya Ruby Darjeeling - From the Arya Estate, this tea was plucked on June 27th, 2014 and is a Second Flush Darjeeling. I found this tea to be deep and rich with a wilder, unrestrained element. While the Muscatels came across as having smooth, finished edges, this one felt very jagged and exciting.
Thurbo Moonlight Darjeeling - From the Thurbo Estate, this tea was plucked on June 11th, 2014 and is a Second Flush Darjeeling. A deep yellow liquid, this tea was smooth and velvety with lilts of nuttiness. This was slightly more robust than the Gopaldhara.
Once again, my views of Darjeeling teas have been reshaped. For so many years, the Darjeelings I had been exposed to seemed flat, weak, watery. Whether my palate has been refined or I've just had the good fortune of experiencing better Darjeelings, I'm absolutely blown away by the range of personalities and the complexities they can offer. More and more, step by step, I'm understanding why this particular type of tea is the Darling of all teas.