29th April 2014 by Whittard
Each year, waiting for the first flush to happen can be nerve-wracking…the local weather conditions have a huge impact on when the tea can be picked and it's difficult to predict when picking can begin.
This year, 2014, there has been a dry spell in the Himalayas, and rain has been in low supply meaning that the tea plants have flushed very late. Whilst we don’t know definite figures yet, production in March was down 20-30% and first pickings at Margaret’s Hope and Okayti have started 2 weeks later than we expected.
Despite the delay, the tea that will be produced will still be high quality as slow growth in tea plants is actually a good thing – leading to a higher level of amino acids, and a characteristic sweetness in the plants. Providing the temperature stays low which it is at the moment, we expect to have an outstanding crop.
It's definitely going to be worth the wait ... so keep watching for news of the arrival of our 2014 First Flush.Read More
24th April 2014 by Whittard
For tea aficionados, this time of year is filled with anticipation ... we're eagerly awaiting delivery of our First Flush Darjeeling and we don't think you'll find a more exquisite tea. For those not in the know, Darjeeling is a town situated along the slopes of the majestic Himalayas, in North West India, and its unique climate, altitude and soil help produce one of the most sought after teas in the world. The first picking of this young leaf, in spring, is called the ‘first flush’ - essentially the first harvest of the year.
The fresh, young buds, whilst having less of the muscatel taste than Second Flush Darjeeling, are highly prized for their fresh, sweet and floral flavours. Demand is so high that gardens have to be selected and contracts signed before the picking has even begun.
This year, our selection process involved tasting a variety of 2013 crops from different tea gardens, in order to find and secure the finest crop for 2014. Based on these tastings, two of the highest altitude gardens were chosen – Darjeeling from lower altitudes is more prone to astringency, creating a furry feeling on your tongue. The two gardens we've selected showcase different aspects of the smooth, lively flavours of First Flush and we can't wait to taste them:
Margaret’s Hope Estate
Margaret’s Hope has been a proud supplier of Whittard for many years, its predominantly Chinese or hybrid tea bushes, producing a relatively robust Darjeeling, with wonderful muscatel notes.
The name of ‘Margaret’s Hope’ was given to the garden in 1927, by the owner, Mr Cruikshank. Originally from Scotland, he bought the estate and his daughter Margaret fell in love with the tea garden and the area. She desperately wanted to return to Darjeeling after a trip to Britain, but unfortunately fell sick on the voyage and never returned. She died of a tropical disease and her heartbroken father named the garden in her memory.
The Okayti estate is tucked away in the Mirik Valley of Darjeeling, and is one of the highest elevation gardens in the area. The tea is lighter in flavour than Margaret’s Hope which has a darker leaf, but its bright flavour has hints of melon to it – almost reminiscent of some Chinese white teas.
The garden was originally called ‘Rangdoo’ when British planters set up a tea estate in the 1870s. The name was changed after tea from Rangdoo became so popular at the London tea auction, that it started being referred to as ‘the only okay tea' . Apparently, before Indian independence, Okayti was the only tea served at Buckingham Palace and it's alleged by some that Queen Victoria herself coined the term ‘the only okay tea'!
Okayti is to this day a family run farm, and uses the original production factory and traditional processing techniques. The Kumbhat family take great pride in having three generations of experience and many say their tea is the best in the region.
Our 2014 First Flush Darjeeling will be with us soon, so keep an eye out and don't miss the opportunity to try this truly special tea.Read More
11th February 2014 by Whittard
Ruth manages our Portobello store, which opened in 2013, and it's hard to beat her enthusiasm for tea and coffee.
She makes a point of trying different coffees whenever she has the chance and has developed an almost encyclopaedic knowledge. Tell Ruth the brand of your favourite coffee and how you brew it and she will be able to recommend one of our coffees that you’ll enjoy as much, if not more. She has managed to convert her whole family to the joys of 'proper' coffee and can’t visit any of them without a gift of fresh coffee.
Frequently Asked Questions
She often finds people are keen to drink green tea, having heard about the health benefits, but say they’ve tried it and have been put off by the taste. However, often this is down to how they've made it and when shown how to brew it properly, they are surprised to find how much they enjoy it.
During the summer Ruth developed a taste for cold green tea and now takes two cups of hot green or oolong tea up to bed, one to retire with and one that is ready to drink cold on waking up in the morning.
Our store is located on Portobello Road which is a really vibrant area to visit, if you are planning a trip to London. Traditionally famous for its antiques market – it’s also a foodie paradise where you can sample pretty much any cuisine you care to name, as well as being home to a host of fashion stalls and specialist stores. Eclectic and cosmopolitan, you’ll find people from every corner of the world and Edwardian terraces standing cheek by jowl with modern architecture.
At the weekend, it’s a major tourist destination, but why not visit during the week and take a more relaxed tour. And don’t forget to pop into the Whittard store and have Ruth and her team (with Irfan and Tania pictured here) find the perfect tea or coffee for you.
31st January 2014 by Whittard
We have recently added some very special new coffees to our range. Grown on tiny plots with unique growing conditions by artisan farmers or painstakingly processed using unusual techniques to develop distinctive flavours, they are only available in small quantities each year.
Kenya Karatu (mild roast): Outstandingly bright and with unrivalled citrus acidity, Kenya Karatu Microlot Coffee is a beautifully refreshing way to start off the day.
Nicaragua Las Cascada (medium roast): Rich, sweet and fruity, Nicaragua La Cascada is an exceptional coffee with a depth of flavour that makes it perfect for enjoying as an espresso.
El Salvador Bosque Lya (mild to medium roast): This is an award-winning coffee from an incredibly beautiful area, its taste reflecting the colour and vitality of the rainforest of its origins. Lemon sherbet sweetness is accompanied by caramel and stewed fruit tastes.
Indonesian Sumatra Jagong Village (medium to strong roast): Bursting with chocolate flavours. Rich, complex and incredibly moreish, it is perfect for savouring after an evening meal.
Peru Churupampa (strong roast) : Richly roasted to bring out the very best of its smooth chocolate flavours, Peru Churupampa is great for sharing with friends and family on long, lazy mornings.
Rwanda Shara Red Bourbon (medium roast) : Rwanda Shara Red Bourbon is one of our buyers’ favourites. Warm and rich with a deep berry taste, it is a beautifully complex coffee, perfect for a well-earned treat in the afternoon.
Visit our artisan coffee page to find out more about the provenance of these special coffees.Read More