Saturday Morning Tea

The first day of fall is only days away and here in New England, temps have dropped almost 20 degrees literally overnight. Even though fall is one of my most favorite seasons, spring is, too, and I’ve chosen a tea this morning that reminds me of those promising days when the soil is just warming up and the tea bushes have started their growth cycle. Yes, one of my most favorite teas – a first flush Darjeeling! This one is from the Makaibari estate, an organic, biodynamic, Fair Trade tea garden in northeast India.

I’ve written about it before here.

As the tea steeps (3 minutes in 212 F water) in my glass teapot, you can see the green bits of leaf that are a good indicator of its first flush designation. Some folks actually believe they’ve received a green tea when they look at the first flush leaf. Yes, it is processed as a black tea but it seems that this first leaf growth, or flush, retains its greenish color, unlike a second flush tea.

As I lift the lid of my teapot, a faint aroma of nuts arises from the light amber tea liquor.

My teapot wears a necklace of pearl bubbles that adorns its glowing, inviting color. As I pour my first cup, I also detect a whisper of ripe fruit.

What strikes me first and foremost about the flavor is its amazing smoothness. Usually, not always, first flushes exhibit a healthy level of astringency. While it is there in this tea, I might say that it is bright rather than astringent. There is also a honey-like sweetness and a bit of fruitiness that lingers in my mouth.

As I wave goodbye to the very last days of summer, I now look forward to cozy sweaters and dark, rich cups of tea. How about you?

Until next week, dear tea friends…

Let us, then, be up and doing

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

                               ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday Morning Tea

When I got up this morning, I discovered that it had rained overnight. The sky now looks like a big gray blanket, overhanging a very wet world outside. The air is very still and a few birds call to one another in the treetops. As we enter the Labor Day weekend, the official end of summer, I can feel a change in the air. Lazy, hazy is being replaced by a cooler more “get down to business” type of energy as school starts again. When I was young, I always loved the start of school because it meant a shiny new pencilcase and a bright box of Crayola crayons with the sharpener on the back. Oh, how I loved to draw and color!

In honor of this ripe, harvest time of year, this morning I am sipping a cup of second flush Darjeeling from the Makaibari estate. The Darjeeling tea growing district is located in northeastern India. When I think of second flushes, words like ripe, grape, heavy and lush pop into my mind. As I gaze out my window, I see our garden, a riot of color, a sea of golden yellow, ruby red and rich magenta.

2nd flush Darjeelings are harvested in the summertime after the tea bush has “flushed” again after the spring picking. With a rich, amber colored liquor, the taste represents the more mature taste of the leaf as opposed to the greener, brighter taste of a first flush. For tea drinkers who enjoy their tea British style with milk, most 2nd flushes offer a stronger taste that one can taste through the milk. I always recommend to try the tea plain first so you can discover what it really tastes like.

A rich fruity aroma greets me as I take my first sip. What is called a muscatel flavor note predominates the taste. Some Darjeelings are described as “muscatel”, a flavor note which speaks of the Muscat grape, said to be the oldest domesticated grape variety.

With this tea, I also detect a slight nutty note with a crisp finish that lingers in the back of my throat. The pungent character of this tea would go very well with rich food, especially a rich dessert like a dark chocolate torte or something incredibly decadent like that. Mmmmm…