|When it's spring in the Himalayas...
When the sun-spun rain falls gently on the mountains...
When magical mists like divine dragons rise from forests...
That is when the mystique of Darjeeling Tea is created.
-- Darjeeling Flushes explained --
Differences between Darjeeling Flushes
Cradled in the foothills of the snow covered and towering Himalayan range, this exclusively exquisite Darjeeling Tea is grown in Darjeeling at an altitude ranging from 750 to 2000 meters. The combination of the moist wet and cool climate, the rich fertile soil, the incessant rainfall and the gradually sloping terrain gives a matchless and unique "muscatel" flavor. The manifestation of the individual and distinct flavor comes out specifically during its tea season or commonly known as Darjeeling Flushes. These Darjeeling Flushes start from end of February to November each year. Each Darjeeling Flush is known by its name which is mainly according to the chronological order. The First season is known as First Flush which is highly sought after by tea connoisseurs world wide. The second season is Second Flush then comes Monsoon Flush which is lesser known and lastly, the Autumn or Autumnal Flush.
It is upon the subjective judgment of the Darjeeling Tea taster to assess the quality of tea. The quality of the tea is not subjected to any chemical index so far. Generally speaking, Darjeeling Tea significantly differs from Assam and South Indian teas since Darjeeling Tea has a presence of higher level of monoterpenes in it. The quality and the flavor of tea are related significantly with one another. A quantitative alteration in terpenoid level and the non-terpenoid level also changes the flavor of these teas. Six hundred volatile flavor tea compounds are said to be existent in the present date. Darjeeling Tea characterized exclusively with the "muscatel flavour" is reported to be connected with components mainly to comply with viz 2, 6- dimethyl,-3, 7-octadiene-2, 6-diol and 3, 7—dimethyl-1, 5, 7-octatriene-3-ol.
FIRST FLUSH DARJEELING (Late February to mid April)
Spring is the season of life, reawakening and freshness. After cold, chilly and the dormant winter months, life takes a new lease in Darjeeling with the First Flush Darjeeling. This is also apparent with the appearance of new tender shoots on the tea shrubs with its delicate, fragile and grey-green sheen on the tea leaves. The tea liquor is characterized by a light translucent color and a mild astringent flavor that impart a lively character to the tea. The distinctive feature of this “Darjeeling First Flush Tea” season is a fragrant floral aroma and a bright lime-greenish eminence of infused leaves.
SECOND FLUSH DARJEELING (May to June)
The production of the world renowned “summer tea” or Second Flush Darjeeling Tea is produced from the month of May. The Second Flush Darjeeling results from the luscious, moist and juicy leaves. It is characterized by very enticing facade with a turquoise, purplish bloom and a touch of shimmering shiny apex (buds). The infused tea leaves are more vivid in its color and appearance than that of spring. It is characterized by mature and a mellow brew. It is during this period that the famous "Darjeeling Muscatel" flavor becomes pronounced. This Darjeeling Second Flush Tea season period expresses a full bodied cup as well as aroma with its infused tea leaves of bright copper or purplish tinge.
MONSOON TEAS (July to September)
The "Monsoon Darjeeling Flush" forms the bulk of 'breakfast blend' for it has more color and is much stronger in its brew and appearance. The teas picked during the rainy season are thought to hold too much water. Some tea connoisseurs have the habit of taking this tea with a little bit of milk added, but this totally depends on personal liking..
AUTUMN FLUSH DARJEELING (October to November)
In the months of October and November the "Autumnal flush tea quality" makes its prominence felt. The tea liquor imparts a delicate, yet a silvery and glimmering character and the appearance lends a light brownish tinge or gentle copper glow. This Autumn Flush Darjeeling Tea has a delightfully distinct feature and taste completely differs from that of First Flush and the Second Flush teas. The infused tea leaves has a golden coppery hue with an aromatic and fresh fragrance. Unlike other Darjeeling Flushes, this tea has a mix of green tea leaves with that of blackish or brown colors. Some of the Darjeeling Tea produced during this season can have characteristics that of First Flush with lighter liqor and with some astringency, but this depends on the manufacturing process.
That's the whole round up of a tea's life circle in Darjeeling in a year comprising of mainly four Darjeeling Flushes. Each Darjeeling Flush has a character of its own and each of these Darjeeling Flushes has a huge fan following. People often debate between the most renowned two Darjeeling Flushes and often asks which to choose - First Flush vs Second Flush Darjeeling. It really depends on ones palate liking. Some like it light and bright, whereas some like it full bodied and dark.