You did not misread the title. This review is about Smith Teamaker's Darjeeling First Flush which I reviewed last November. And it's also about Smith Teamaker's Second Flush Darjeeling. Last week I conducted a comparative cupping with my ITEI tea school instructor. The first flush was harvested in mid-March from the Tumsong garden. The leaves have been graded as FTGFOP1. The second flush was harvested in mid-May, so technically not a second flush, from the Steinthal garden. I've been taught leaves plucked in June are considered the second flush harvest. This tea was also graded FTGFOP1. The acronym stands for Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. The number 1 was assigned my the taster to indicate the tea's specialness.
For both teas, I used professional tasting cups and protocol. Two grams of each tea were steeped in 212F water for three minutes. Here is my November 2016 profile of the Darjeeling First Flush:
The infused leaves smelled like green stems with floral and stone fruit notes. The liquor from the first infusion was a deep honey color, amber with a sweet smell which carried through to the taste. Accompanying the sweetness was a pleasant green astringency, a thigh mouthfeel, and a lingering stone fruit taste. With a second infusion, the color of the liquor deepened but it was less sweet and fruity. The green astringency was still there though it had spun off into a dryness on the tongue and fruity film on my top row of teeth. The end note like gnawing on the pit of a stone fruit. The third and final infusion was lighter in color and thinner in flavor and texture. The green astringency was mostly gone but happily the dry fruitiness remained.
Darjeeling First Flush Tumsong
Was my second cupping with this first flush different? This recent cupping was fairly consistent with the first one. The dry leaf aroma was fresh and green like freshly cut vegetation, but not grass. There was a light sweetness on the nose. The sage and moss green leaves interspersed with a medium presence of silver buds were wiry and under one inch in length. The infused leaves smelled of broken plant stems or like when you open a pistachio nut (the official tasting notes list pistachio as a flavor). The leaves smelled sweet. My instructor asked if I smelled white flowers. I did not. The shiny liquor smelled similar to the infused leaves. The infusion was a golden yellow peach color. It was stone fruity sweet and lightly astringent. There was a raw vegetable bitterness, too. The mouthfeel was not substantial but the flavors lingered on my palate and in my cheeks; it was a light to medium body tea.
Darjeeling Second Flush Steinthal
The dry leaves of this Darjeeling were much darker than the leaves of the first flush. They smelled baked, buttery, and sweet. This tea was not as elegant looking as the first flush. There was greater variety in leaf length and most of the leaves were short at under half an inch in length. I observed a low presence of buds. The infused leaves smelled of dark fruit and had a sweet darkly baked fragrance. This tea's bouquet reminded me on an Oriental Beauty. My instructor told me that second flushes have a muscatel aroma (smell plus taste) which can be described as "ripe grapes on a vine in summer". The color of the infused leaves was more uniform than in the dry form. The coppery liquor was shiny and smelled similar to the infused leaves. The tea had a medium body with lingering flavors. It was tannic, astringent, and robust. I prefer milk without tea. To control the tannic and astringent notes of this second flush, I would prepare it using it a gaiwan with gongfu gram weight and steep time.
Pairing Darjeeling &Food
Typically I don't include food pairings with my tea reviews but my instructor presented me with the following scenario: your client serves morning brunch and afternoon tea. Which of these teas would you recommend? If the client desired, she could offer both teas. The first flush would pair well with a light afternoon tea while the second flush would pair well with a heavier afternoon tea as well as with a traditional brunch. If the client only wanted to offer one of the teas, I would recommend the second flush. It is the more versatile of the two teas. In terms of menus, apricot jam; creamy, salty cheese savories; and white chocolate or pistachio and apricot studded chocolate sweets at afternoon tea to pair with the first flush. Egg omelette, french toast, and raisin scones for a traditional brunch with the second flush. The raisin scone could also be offered at afternoon tea along with creamy cheeses, milk chocolates, and creme caramel to balance the tannic nature of the second flush.
What do you pair with your Darjeelings?
P.S. Check out my review of the Smith Teamaker Oriental Beauty.
P.P.S. The teas reviewed here were part of an Instagram prize pack.