Darjeeling Tea from the Himalayas
Darjeeling teas which are regarded as the 'Champagne' of teas, are normally classified as a type of black tea, but the degree of oxidation, particularly at the start of the season is below 100%.
If by classification, black teas are 100% oxidized, then First flush Darjeeling teas, because they are only partially oxidized (70%-80%) cannot be classified as black teas, but more like Oolong teas.
Oxidization is the process by which the browning of tea leaves and the production of flavor and aroma compounds, happens (think : browning of an Apple when cut). Controlled oxidation usually begins after tea leaves are rolled or macerated, two processes that break down the cell walls in tea leaves. Chemically speaking, oxidation occurs when the Polyphenols in the cell comes in contact with an enzyme called Polyphenol Oxidase. The resulting reaction converts tea Catechins into Theaflavins and Thearubigins. Theaflavins provide tea with its briskness and flavor as well as its yellow color, and Thearubigins provide tea with depth and body and its orange-brown color. This conversion of Catechins to Theaflavins and Thearubigins means that the longer the oxidation, the lower the amount of Catechins in the finished tea. The oxidation of tea leaves is controlled by the tea master and requires an oxygen-rich humid atmosphere. When the optimum oxidization is reached, as determined by the optimum flavor of the finished tea, oxidation is halted by drying the leaves, which renders the enzymes responsible for the reaction inoperable.
Oxidization is adjusted in the manufacturing process to bring out the best flavor, taking advantage of the climatic conditions prevailing at the time. Very dry and cool weather prevailing during March and April is best for quality manufacture, resulting in exceptional flavor.Darjeeling Tea
First Flush teas are made from leaves harvested early Spring. They are harder withered and less oxidized when compared to the second flush teas. The difference is seen in the dry leaf, where the First Flush teas have a slight greenish hue and is also light in cup. The taste is very delicate with a touch of astringency (not to be mistaken with bitterness).
Second Flush Darjeeling teas are harvested end May and early June depending upon weather and climatic conditions and are found to have more color in the cup and a stronger flavor. The liquor has more body than the first flush teas. Ideally, first and second flush teas should be tasted plain and not with milk. It is a matter of individual preference which tea is considered the better tea.
The First Flush Singbulli Estate Darjeeling featured by us is a late Spring tea with exceptional flavor. Use 2 grams tea for 8 ounces of water and steep for 3 minutes at 170 degrees F. Oversteeping will result in bitterness. Always use soft water or spring water.