When I am sipping tea in my tearoom I am swallowing the whole universe with it and that this very moment of my lifting the bowl to my lips is eternity itself transcending time and space. – D.T. Suzuki
Would you say this is a tad bit of an overstatement when it comes to tea? Perhaps. But then again, only tea can inspire such profundity in a person.
Thats the thing about this humble beverage. It takes you into a world of contemplation.It inspires you, makes you almost pensive, and takes you closer to a world that is quieter and more peaceful than ours.
And whats the mark of a great cup of tea, you ask? Factor in scores for freshness, flavor, and finesse and there you have it. Most tea experts are of the opinion that you don’t need to look further than first flush teas to know what a truly great cup of tea feels like. It can make a noble out of pauper (so to say). One of our earlier blog posts spoke about what is a tea flush and the various kinds there are.
In this particular blog post, Ill take you through what are first flush teas and tell you what makes this particular class of tea so distinct from the rest of the lot.
Fresh, fine and fabulous – the first picks of spring
First flush teas are plucked typically between the months of March and May, right after the winter season and at the onset of spring. In some countries, teas plucked during this season are also called as Spring Flush or Easter Flush teas. When the plants awake from their dormant state following the long winter spell, thats when the first growing season starts, leading to the first harvest, which then completes the first flush. Healthy tea bushes bloom in full swing, throwing out gentle pale-green buds and leaves that have been energized by melting snow and warm spring rains.
Light of the body, brisk of the flavor – a cup of contrasts
Every flush has unique cup characteristics. The subtle changes that occur from one flush to the other are quite apparent which makes exploring each flush so much more interesting.
Now, first flush kicks in right after winter. Because the leaves have had the time to mature all through the winter pass, the resulting tea liquor is distinctly brisk in flavor, however light in color, seemingly clear, and bright in appearance. And the aroma of first flush teas is notably fresh, green and temperately floral.
First flushes, a rari-tea
Now, tea pluckers usually have a limited time bracket within which they have to harvest all the leaves. They do this is in cycles, the number of which varies from region to region, season to season. In case of first flush teas, the shoots grow rather rapidly with the onset of spring. The flush come into full bloom within 2-3 weeks and tea pluckers usually harvest the leaves in 3-4 rounds before there are no more plucking points left on the plant. Given such a short time frame, only a limited quantity of teas is produced during spring.
Because of this, demand for first flush teas is always more than its supply in the market, making these teas some of the rarest and the most expensive ones.
One cup to rule them all – the Darjeeling first flush
Some of the most popular and expensive varieties of first flush teas comes from Darjeeling region in India. Jungpana, Rohini, Goomtee, Castleton and Makaibari are some of the highly sought out estates for their first flush Darjeeling teas.
Unlike second flush teas, first flush Darjeeling teas are not characteristically known for having muscatel flavor. They are typically associated as being floral/fruity, quite aromatic, fine textured, and brisk with a sweet tip-off towards the end. They are, also, quite astringent in taste. Such a flavor profile works well with richer foods for textural pairing including soft cheese and egg based dishes. It even pairs well with fruits and seafood.
Tea Fact: Right after the first flush, there comes along a brief period of In-between flush which lasts for about two weeks. Following this spell, the month of June brings with it the second flush crop.
By now you will have gathered a pretty decent understanding about first flush teas and the characteristic traits associated with these teas. Being such a rare and elegant variety, first flush teas are best consumed au-naturale, but additives such as lemon and honey can be paired with these teas.
To truly gauge the beauty of this decadent tea, go on a try a first flush variety be it black or green or even white. Its the only way to truly appreciate your favorite kind of tea. Check out our 2016 first flush teas here.