Darjeeling First Flush is one of the most anticipated first season of the year. During the cold winter months, the severe weather conditions inhibit growth and the tea bushes go under hibernation. They rest for a couple of months and bloom into glory as the Spring starts. The new spring growth constitutes the famed First Flush. “Weather” is the main player in any of the Darjeeling Tea seasons which determines the overall quality and quantity of production. This Darjeeling First Flush 2016 season was no different. It rained, but again the dry spell hit us hard, but luckily we were within the the so called “peak quality time frame”. The rain Gods favored us within the time frame and brought cheers among the tea industry. As the end drew near for the closer of the First Flush season, Darjeeling witnessed another nature’s fury, the heavy hailstorm. Some of our favorite Tea gardens lost 100% of their crop forcing them to stop production completely.
Witness the new First Flush 2016 raw teas being weighed before they are taken to the factory.
From the end of February this year, I removed my horse blinders, woke up from the slumber and started making trips to various tea gardens. None had started sprouting new tea leaves then. Everybody was waiting for the clouds to clash and quench those thirsty tea leaves. We received the first major rain on February 8. I was so excited that I ran down to the nearest tea garden, Happy Valley, and took some photos and a video. I thought any Darjeeling Tea lover would love to view the first rain their dear First Flush received.
The start of Darjeeling First Flush 2016 season
Lower elevation tea gardens flush faster than the higher ones, but they too need rain. After the first rain, the dry weather conditions started to prevail and our worries started getting bigger. Till, March 10, the high altitude tea gardens hadn’t had much of their share and the tea bushes seemed almost dormant. Meaning the First flush period was being cut short which further meant the amount of production would go down. The teas would be a scarcity, which surely was. This Darjeeling First Flush 2016 season was a tough one on us and almost all of Darjeeling Tea buyers. Scarcity is one and to find that top quality heap of tea is a hard job. We started ringing tea estates’ door bells, started tasting it. We got alarmed thinking that we wouldn’t get any teas, but after tasting those early teas, we held on to our horses and waited patiently for the perfect first flush characters to appear in the teas. Slowly, our desired quality teas started knocking our doors and we started purchasing.
Finally the peak quality teas were in front of us, but guess what, there were so many versions of the same tea. All were good teas, but we had to choose the cream from the creams. The choosing of the cream had to be done via vigorous tea tasting sessions and you will be surprised to know that the quality greatly differed between two teas of same grade and name. The difference were, the quality of raw tea leaves used, time of picking, weather conditions prevalent at that time and the manufacturing process. Do you know that the best quality raw tea leaves can get the worst of output if there is some error in the manufacturing process? So taking all these into consideration, picking the right one by an experienced tea taster plays a pivotal role.
Don’t expect two teas bearing the same name to be the same. Meaning a particular tea with us will always be different from the tea being sold by another vendor. I am not saying theirs will be bad and ours will be better, but will certainly be different. And on another note, do bear in mind, we taste, we choose and pay a premium price for the best. The best will always cost more, but that doesn’t mean that we would rob you. We tag a fair price to our teas without a single bit compromising on tea quality. You are the best judge! We encourage you to try our Darjeeling First Flush 2016 Tea varieties and freely compare with the same variety got from someplace else. If you don’t want to compare, then shop worry free and avoid the feeling of having dumped your money on an average tea having a premium price. If you want the best, shop the best! We have been known to carry only the best produce Darjeeling has to offer every season and we try our best to get you the best tasting tea, having the highest quality!
Some Teas missed, some discovered
Last year we were amazed by the tea Singbulli Emperor, but sadly, this year, the tea leaves, mainly AV2, could not have an expected growth due to lack of favorable weather conditions. No one can be blamed for this except the prevailing weather conditions. Hence, the production of this particular Emperor was not possible. However their China variety tea was well made and highly affordable. After three rounds of tasting their china variety, comprising of 21 tea invoices, we liked invoice number “DJ-24”. A flavorful classic Singbulli tea “China Flowery Supreme” Darjeeling Tea.
Talking about overall quality of teas we tasted this year, despite the late start of the First Flush season, we found out that it was pretty good. But from the “pretty good”, we had to choose the best. Darjeeling Tea industry is a huge one and does not comprise of a single area, but is spread far and wide. This makes a difference in the time of flushing and also the weather conditions. Some were completely dry while others were receiving considerable amount of rain to push their first flush growth. This year, we were surprised by some other tea gardens who sampled us. Like for example, Glenburn Tea Estate sent us their peak time production samples entitled “Glenburn Moonshine“. There were five different varieties of this particular tea, some made with a mix of different clonal varieties and some made from pure AV2 clonals. We liked the pure one having invoice number EX-12.
The First Flush season ends mid April when the tea leaves slowly start to degrade in quality. After doing 4-5 rounds of flushing (or growth), the tea bushes need some rest to start for the next big season, the Second Flush. Tea got at the right time will always be good in quality, but the time frame of quality tea growth is always shifting within the barrier of First Flush production period. For locals like us, we can run down or climb up any of the tea gardens to see the quality of the tea leaves sprouting. After mid April, the “banji” period starts which is basically tea leaves without the buds or the buds have opened up. This doesn’t yield quality tea. So stay assured that your teas have been expertly picked during peak quality time having highest quality standards.
First Flush 2016 season ending with a sadder note
For the high altitude tea gardens, their flushing will always be late as compared to lower elevation tea gardens. Some of the higher altitude tea gardens like Arya had just their first round of flushing of their clonals meant for the production of teas like Arya Diamond and Arya Ruby, there was a major hailstorm. It was so severe that Darjeeling was covered with almost 5 inches of ice and appeared as if it had snowed. The tourists rejoiced, but the affected tea gardens were devastated. Luckily for us, I had already placed an order of Arya Diamond Tea with Arya Tea Estate and they had produced my share before the hailstorm occurred. I had already received the tea sample and it was a mind blowing Arya Spring Diamond. I received my share, but a little less, as they had made promises to one of the German buyers as well. Mr. Roy, the manager requested me that he would split up my share with the German buyer. How could I say no? I only received half of what I ordered. The other half went to Germany.
So, this year’s Arya Diamond, though excellent in quality, is also extremely extremely limited at hand. Its the rarest of the rare 2016 offering from Darjeeling. Though I share their sad plight, simultaneously would like to congratulate Mr. Roy on making such a wonderful tea. 100% of Arya’s crop has been destroyed along with Happy Valley and Pandam Tea Estate. Risheehat and Orange Valley too share some percentage of crop destruction. Arya has totally stopped production due to lack of tea leaves and there will be no Arya Ruby this year. The One and Only Arya Diamond Tea that they could produce is with us. Now they will only start their production from Second Flush 2016 on wards.
However, we could get our hands on Arya Pearl White Tea which is usually produced from the lower clonal sections of Arya Tea Estate. The lower altitude sections flush a bit early than the higher sections. The raw tea leaves meant for Pearl wasn’t disturbed in their growth and Arya could fulfill their Pearl orders easily. Diamond however is produced from higher elevation sections. This along with the entire tea estate was badly affected by the hailstorm after they had produced their first batch meant for us.
Another Darjeeling Tea garden, Puttabong Tea Estate, was shut down for 8 days when the tea workers revolted against the owner/management when the management wanted to change the weighing time to start from 11.45 am. This, according to the workers clashed with their lunch time and would literally be unable to have their lunch. The actual existing weighing time starts from 11.15 am to 1.00 pm. The workers wanted to revert to the old timing.
Prashant Pradhan, assistant secretary of the GJM-affiliated Darjeeling Terrai Dooars Plantation Labor Union (DTDPLU), said, “The main problem in Puttabong (Tukvar) tea garden is the present timing for weighing the plucked tea leaves, which starts from 11:15 am to around 1:00 pm. The management wants weighing to start from 11:45 am, but the workers argue that if this is done, they will not get enough time for lunch as the weighing process takes time because there are hundreds of workers queued up for their turn. The workers need to go home and cook their lunch and rush back immediately. This is why the new timing is not feasible for them and they prefer the old timing.”
Hope the poor tea workers get their time for lunch and the management also benefits from the settled timing brought out from the negotiation. Here’s wishing well to all the tea laborers at Puttabong and a good First Flush for the management as well.
This is for the second time, Puttabong has been temporarily closed due to labor-management problem. The first happened from December 25 to January 18.
I apologize to my wholesale customers for not fulfilling their desired quantity of Arya Diamond. You will be getting the share which we have discussed with you. The tea is one of the best teas Darjeeling has produced this Darjeeling First Flush 2016 tea season.
The best First Flush teas from the new 2016 season is here. We chose it wisely, now it’s time for you to Relish the Divine!
Grab your share 🙂 – Head on to our Darjeeling First Flush 2016 tea page