Imagine an entire winter cold and dormant, when no tea leaves have been picked and the plants enjoy the unhurried growth. As the weather grows warmer, people begin to look skywards to see if winters finally passing. And then, the magnolias bloom, and the rhododendrons and camomile bloom, and it’s officially spring. The valley is awash with colors, and the tea gardens are a lush green. With the arrival of spring comes the much awaited harvest season in Darjeeling the first flush.
The season begins by mid February and goes all the way to end April. Many tea buyers will even sign a forward contract seeking the harvest even as winter trails away. In the valley, theres plenty of buzz about which garden will make the first FF its an exciting time alright; the end of a long wait! Spring teas are all about pedigree, a complex and dense flavor profile. The quiet winter months have allowed the leaves to pack in much flavor.
Spring teas are also minimally processed; if you look carefully, you will see that these teas are still very green and only lightly rolled. As far as taste goes, they are notably floral and fruity.
If you are new to tea, a Darjeeling spring tea may well convert you. Assam, Kangra and the Nilgiris also have a harvest season in spring, producing their own first flush teas but it’s the Darjeeling that reigns supreme. At tea auctions and among private buyers too, the Darjeeling FF will command the highest prices. They are among the most expensive teas among all flushes and all teas, and tea doyens go as far to say that the real taste of tea is best echoed in a cup of freshly brewed first flush Darjeeling.
Illustration by Handmade by Radhika