I’ve been trying to branch out from Chinese and Japanese teas a bit lately, and when I saw that Harney and Sons had a sample size available of a 2020 First Flush Darjeeling I jumped at the chance and purchased one. Gielle is the name of one of the Darjeeling tea gardens. Darjeeling is a region in northern India and the name of the tea is protected. In order to call a tea Darjeeling, it must be grown in a specified area of India and currently there are 87 gardens that are able to call their tea Darjeeling.
First Flush Darjeeling teas are classified as black tea, even though they are not fully oxidized. In fact, they resemble white tea or oolong more so than black tea in my opinion. When I tore open the package, the smell reminded of a Bai Mu Dan white tea. If you want the story on why it is considered black tea, check out the Darjeeling master himself the Lazy Literatus’ Steep Story which explains it in detail. Here’s a side by side of this tea and the white tea I just had in my most recent blog.
I am finding out that First Flush Darjeeling doesn’t really play by the rules that other teas go by. You don’t want to hit this with really hot water like you would a true black tea as it will turn bitter. You also don’t really want to give it the full gong fu treatment in my experience, although I know some people do prefer it this way. So I went with a sort of in-between method. I used 3 grams in a 150 ml gaiwan with 185F water. I did the first infusion for 1 minute and added 15 seconds for each subsequent infusion. So they were 60, 75, 90, 105 seconds.
The first infusion had a nice fruity flavor to it, which I later determined to be grapes, which was nice. But it was quite drying, which is an unusual sensation for me with tea. I don’t experience that too often. It also had a faint floral note to it as well.
The second infusion was quite different from the first. The texture was thicker and creamy. The grape note came through a bit stronger as well. I briefly picked up a slight savory almost meaty note on this one, but only for a second. This was a very enjoyable cup.
The third was similar to the second, but the savory note was gone. Thick and creamy and grape-y – it was nice.
The fourth infusion however, did something that I’ve read about but not experienced yet. It turned sour. It was only slightly and really more of a tangy sensation. But I have read that Darjeelings can turn on you in an instant, and I don’t know what causes it. It still had the fruity grapey note but with a tang added to it. I decided to call it at four on that one.
Overall I really enjoyed this tea, especially as a change of pace from the usual suspects. The grape notes that you can get in Darjeelings seems to be pretty unique from other tea types.
Darjeeling can be expensive. This one is really not bad though. It is currently $20 for 3 oz. (85 grams) or $100 for a pound (454 grams). I bought the sample pack which is somewhere around 6 or 7 grams for $3 (currently sold out, samples go quick). If we use the 85 gram tin price, then it is 28 sessions per tin. That’s $.71 per session. If you get four infusions from a session that comes to $.18 per cup. It’s right there in the sweet spot of under $.20 per cup. I think that’s a good price for a pretty good Darjeeling.
Have you had much Darjeeling? Do you know what causes it to turn sour? I would love to learn more about this tea type in the future. Who knows, maybe I will. Cheers!