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Darjeeling First Flush 2016

Ahead of the crowd- Darjeeling first flush 2016

I’m so excited that the tea season of 2016 has officially begun for us.  We have placed orders for our 2016 first flush Darjeelings - 3 months before the first buds appear on the Darjeeling tea bushes. 


Yes, twelve weeks early! Nestled in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, the tiny municipality of Darjeeling is so small that tea farmers struggle to meet demand each year -- imagine the world's most sought after tea, produced in a region smaller than Sussex. However, the tea which is produced benefits from the region's extraordinary micro-climate. Grown slowly under cooling mists and benefitting from regular rainfall, the very best Darjeeling teas are characterised by sweet, fruity, muscat notes and a refreshingly light astringency.

In order to ensure that we choose the very best teas produced at the very beginning of spring, we work with a selection of gardens to guarantee early access to the youngest buds and leaves.  In return for our commitment to buy a certain amount of this most refreshing Indian tea, we are given immediate access to the first pickings of the year.  It is a win win for all of us.  The garden is secure in selling their harvest, and we can get ahead of the pack by selecting the best Darjeeling tea from the earliest production.


We have to work hard to make sure we’re familiar with the characteristics and reliability of teas produced at different gardens in the region each year and use this to select partners that we trust to buy from. This is without a doubt, the best part of my job. 

Margaret’s Hope and Badamtam estates have supplied Whittard with their exclusive single estate teas for several decades, and over the last three years I’ve been lucky enough to spend time on the gardens learning about what makes their teas so unique. 

Both gardens are so serious about their teas, that when estate managers want to get married, they actually ask permission from their superiors and bring their spouse to stay on the tea estates as a ‘trial run’, to ensure that both partners are happy that tea will be the focus of their world! 


The remote locations of these Indian tea hills could certainly be a challenge for a newly married couple, but they are key to why the teas we will choose taste so good.  Ranging from 300 – 1300m in altitude, we select teas from the upper sections of tea gardens which are subject to cooler temperatures, and therefore grow more slowly creating a chemical mix in the leaf that is sweet and clean to taste.  Both gardens also have an extremely high percentage of native Chinese tea bushes which are best suited to making first flush teas.  Traditional production techniques have been protected in these outposts, with an incredibly long withering of the leaf ensuring that the tea is packed full of amino-acids and theanine, which create a floral aroma and lingering sweetness. 

I have a huge amount of trust in their skills and practices, and know that we will be presented with incredible teas to choose from in March or April when the first teas are produced.  I am hopeful that we may also find a rare gem like our Margarets Hope Moonlight Darjeeling, a white tea that was produced in a tiny quantity last Spring.  It has brightened up my mornings since tasting it last year.


I am already impatient for the weather to warm up in the Himalayas and find out what 2016 has to offer.

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