At the moment, I have been absolutely loving darjeeling. I think it’s partly because the weather is getting warmer so I don’t feel I need a strong cup of English Black Tea but something little lighter & preferably without milk. So I have to grab my delicious darjeeling.
Just before Christmas, my mother, sister & I went to London for the day. The last trip was a slightly more *ahem* distressing trip when we went to Fortnum & Masons (see a previous blog post on it). However this time was a trip with fewer tears (thankfully) so we decided to go to Harrods for morning tea & a peruse around the food hall. Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about food, the presentation was amazing, ingredients sounded incredible & it looked so delicious it was quite job not to just scream & grab some of their patisserie! But I contained myself & nodded in agreement that it all looked quite delightful (as we tried not to look too much like tourists). Mary then went in search of something she could eat then & there to get a Harrods bag to take away, so we went into the sweets, chocolates, tea & coffee section. That is when I almost burst! There was the most wonderful selection of teas all in their unified black & gold tins. I think I was too excited to take pictures so I apologise but I will next time I go. The most incredible thing at Harrods was that they had a little unit that had drawers that you could smell a section of the blends & at the top it had a screen where it would give you a bit of information on each of the blends such as location of growth, flush & some tasting notes. Again I spent far too long talking to the sales assistant asking for her advice & asked to smell a selection that I couldn’t in the unit. I knew I wanted a darjeeling but I didn’t know which blend to choose so I in a way just closed my eyes & pointed to something. Actually & I know this is going to seem very childish but I chose this blend because it was called Poobong which makes me want to giggle a little every time I say it. I paid £10 for 100g which is about average price for a standard loose leaf but there were some that were in excess of £50 for 50g!
I’ll give you a bit of a background on Darjeeling itself before I go specifically into this blend. Darjeeling is often called ‘the champagne of tea’ which I really don’t think is right. Most champagnes are quite expensive, don’t actually taste that good & just aren’t that easy to get hold of. Darjeeling on the other hand, aren’t that expensive, aren’t too difficult to buy & 99% of the time taste wonderful. However in the same way as champagne to have a darjeeling tea, you need the prodected designation of origin & have grown in the Darjeeling district in West Bengal, India. However that isn’t always the case & they are often blended with leaves from other gardens not from the Darjeeling district. But the Tea Board of India are implimenting a lot more restrictions on what can be called darjeeling. I think it would be better to go into more detail in another blog post otherwise this one will be huge!
I don’t think the sales assistant said much more than it was from the Poobong tea estate so I can’t go in to specifics on this blend. However I have managed to find some other retails of this blends so I have got my information on the background on this from the sources listed at the bottom of this post. The estate used china tea bushes so they are slightly smaller leaves & are great for the high altitudes you get in Darjeeling.
As you can see in the picture above right, the dried leaves are a rich browny colour, thinly rolled but not tightly. You can definitely see they are orthadox leaves so haven’t been cut down to fine dust. The smell of the dried leaves are fresh & light, not the rich thick smell of a English Breakfast, it smells almost like dried cut grass without the sharpness. I boiled my kettle to 80 degrees & infused for just over 2 minutes as I prefer the lighter flavours. The liquor is bright clear deep yellow, almost starting to look amber. The second cup of the pot is a little darker but I think that is just due to the nature of the brewing in the pot. It smells nutty, of roasted nuts but at that perfect moment when they are a little caramelised. The taste is utterly divine, a slightly buttery, clean, flavour with those hints of the caramel nuttiness & a bit of biscuit that you get in the smell. There are no bitter aftertastes either so you are left with just a little hint of flavour on the tongue which makes you want more. The wet leaves have distinctly expanded but are still clean looking & richer in their reddy brown colour. The smell from the liquor is intensified in the smell of the leaves. They are strong & rich but with that freshness that you get from the dried leaves. They are a little cut so you don’t get completely full leaves, but I don’t feel cheated with this, I think it helps to get that quicker infusion but they’re still fairly decent leaves.
Recently I have started to let my leaves dry out after their first infusion & then use them for a second infusion later in the day. This reduces the caffeine the leaves so is perfect for a just after lunch pot & then a late afternoon one. I definitely think that darjeeling is an underrated tea that more people need to get into. The flavours aren’t so far away from a normal English tea but they are more refined & great for people who don’t like something too strong! Finding a proper darjeeling isn’t too hard to get, probably easiest to buy online but make sure they have the sign of the PDO from Darjeeling to make sure it is an authentic blend, but more to come on that in another post!
Have a great day!