Brief history of tea in India
Tea has been known for at least 2 thousand years in China, when the Europeans sailed the world they started to trade tea, which soon became a popular drink. After the first Opium War, the British wanted to take tea growing and processing in own hands. And thought the overseas colonies would make good places for growing tea. The British had found out how they liked to drink their tea, but growing and processing was an unknown area.
One of the stories to find out the secrets about tea and processing is that Scottish botanist and ‘plant hunter’ Robert Fortune was send to China to steal the secret. He had to go in disguise, if anyone in China would find out about his plans, he likely would get killed. Robert Fortune’s mission was successful, he found out about processing and he could send Chinese plants to India, although majority did not survive the journey.
Writer Sarah Rose wrote ‘for all the tea in China’, the story of Robert Fortune on his mission. If you love tea and the stories behind, I can recommend to read it.
Interesting fact is that in India a drink from local tea trees was already known. This drink was from leaves from, what we know now as the Camellia sinensis var. assamica tree, whereas the Chinese plants are known as Camellia sinensis var. sinensis. Both are original tea plants (natural varietals) and used for tea nowadays, but with different characteristics in sense growing conditions, size of the plant and leaves and also in taste profile.
From 1845 the first experiments with Chinese tea plants started in Darjeeling. At the lesser Himalaya’s the climate and terroir seemed to be very good for the tea plant. The tea harvested in steep hilled Darjeeling appeared to have a very special taste profile, that was – and still is – very much appreciated. With the climatological changes through the year, all 4 flushes from Darjeeling have their own characteristic profile. Where First Flush is most appreciated, scarce and expensive. Followed by Second Flush.
India has several important and well-known tea regions, Darjeeling is one of the best known, due to the exquisite character of the teas grown and processed in this area. Darjeeling tea region is situated at the south side of the Himalayas. Tea gardens are situated at altitudes ranging from 600 to 2000 m above sea level. This makes a unique location, at higher altitudes tea plants grow slowly and develop complex flavours.
According to the Indian Tea Board there are nowadays 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling.
In Darjeeling generally four flushes are harvested. First Flush, Second Flush, Monsoon or Summer Flush and Autumn Flush.
* First Flush gets its delicate flavours due to the harsh winter season at the higher elevations, when the tea plants start to grow again in spring, the new leaves burst with delicate and flowery flavours. The leaves are mainly green and the tea is light and floral and brews a yellow coloured liquor. First Flush Darjeeling tea is well appreciated and often referred to as the ‘Champagne of tea’. First Flush is the most expensive Darjeeling Flush.
* Second Flush tea has leaves in shades of brown and can also contain silver grey, yellow and green leaves. Often smell of the dry leaves is sweet and fruity, with characteristic muscatel aroma. The brew is golden brown, taste is strong, fruity and floral with pronounced muscatel flavour.
* Monsoon or Summer Flush is less appreciated because it is less delicate in taste. It is often used for blends.
* Autumn Flush has dark coloured leaves and has a strong and outspoken taste. Not comparable with First or Second Flush, but with own characteristics.
In Bestteaspot shop we have a delicate First Flush Darjeeling Tea from Arya estate and a Second Flush muscatel tea from Balasun estate.
History of Arya Tea Garden & Estate
Arya tea garden is also locally known as ‘Sidrabong’ and was established in the year 1885.
As the legend goes, a monk who was believed to possess extraordinary spiritual powers chanced upon a hill and was left speechless by its purity. He looked all around and felt a sense of elation, for what he saw was a stunning expanse of beautiful hills being nurtured and caressed by the freshness of the wind. The legendry garden still preserves the house in which the monks dwelled back in the 1800s.
More importantly, it made him realize that he was about to give shape to what had for long been brewing in his mind- a unique flavor of tea that would have no parallel anywhere else in the world. The monk was already revered for his Chinese seed development skills, and here he was- at gates of Paradise, about to discover a flavor divine. He along with his fellow monks, set about with experimental plantations. They studied in great detail the nature of soil, topography and the weather pattern for years till the right conditions were identified. The hard work yielded rich results as the flavor surpassed their expectations. Hence was born an exceptional brew-inimitable and unmatched till today. The “Sidrabong” gardens were thus established by the monks in the 19th century and the legendary formula was passed over, giving us “Arya Monk” Bio Organic Certified Darjeeling Tea.
The area of Arya tea garden is 125 Hectares and ranges from an elevation of 900 to 1820 meters above sea level.
Arya Organic Estate
Arya Estate is a certified organic estate, well known for small batch specialties. Organic farming and processing means that only natural fertilizers are used and if necessary, treatment of bugs and pests is done in a natural way. No chemicals are used.
Darjeeling First Flush 2020
In Bestteaspot assortment you will find premium Darjeeling First Flush loose leaf tea from Arya estate, this is a so called ‘China’ tea, which refers to the variety of the tea plant where the delicate tea leaves come from.
We are very happy to offer this exquisite tea, as start of 2020 has been very hard in India due to lockdown situation in peak of FF picking season. Harvest is much smaller than other years, so be sure you get some in our Webshop.
Brewing & Characteristics
Darjeeling Single Estate Arya First Flush is best brewed at 80-90 degrees Celsius using fresh water. Waking up the leaves is recommended to release the full flavor. This tea can also be used for Gong Fu style brewing.
The brew is bright, light yellow with aromatic scents of sweetness, flowers and a hint of fresh asparagus. A pleasant smooth lingering aftertaste.
History and info of Balasun Tea Garden & Estate
Establishing of the plantation took place in 1871 by M/s Davenport & Company Ltd. The garden was originally named Nahore Balasun taken from the Lepcha dialect and was later renamed as Balasun after the river Balasun, flowing through the garden. Jayshree Tea and Industries owns the garden nowadays, acquired in 2005.
The Balasun Estate is famous for producing excellent quality tea with fuller body and typical muscatel china flavour, The Balasun Tea estate is spread across rolling hills with moderately gentle slope and a wide open valley with Balasun river flowing at the lowest part of the garden. There are panoramic views whereas the garden altitude varies from 365 metres to 1375 metres above sea level. Temperatures range between 7 degrees Celsius in winter to maximum of 30 degrees in summer.
The estate carries several certifications, such as Fair Trade, HACCP, UTZ and SAN/ Rainforest Alliance certification.
Balasun Second Flush 2020
In Bestteaspot assortment you will find premium Darjeeling Second Flush from Balasun Estate, this is a losse leaf muscatel tea, from clonal variety of the tea plant known for the aromatic tea leaves with sweet and outspoken natural muscatel aroma.
We are very happy to offer this wonderful Balasun Second Flush tea, as start of 2020 has been very hard in India due to lockdown situation, also logistic situation gave us challenges, efforts we made are rewarded with this great tea, which is now available in our shop.
Brewing & Characteristics
Although Balasun Second Flush is a black tea, we recommend not to brew at 100 degrees Celsius, but lower temperature, preferably at 85-90 degrees Celsius using fresh water. Waking up the leaves is recommended to release the full flavour.
This tea can also be used for Gong Fu style brewing and delicious cold brews.
The dry leaves look stunning, they are wiry, coarse & crisp in black and shades of brown, green, yellow and silver. Tips are included. Smell is fragrant, flowery, fresh and green.
The brew is a bright and gold to brown coloured. With sweet and aromatic scents. The taste is overwhelmingly sweet, flowery and fresh, typical muscatel – the slight roasting notes give the tea a good balance.