December 15, 2016

Darjeeling First Flush - Indian Black Tea Cupping

The history of tea in India is a dark one; here I'm referring not to the color of the tea but to human behavior: espionage, indentured servitude, ethnic and religious strife, deforestation, and probably a lot more. I knew parts of the story but I'm filling in the gaps through the tea course I am taking with International Tea Education Institute. In addition to this very important aspect of tea in India, I am learning about the major regions in India, the prominence of either variety of C. sinensis depending on where you are in India, processing methods, and harvest periods. Earlier this week I cupped a first flush Darjeeling. As I mentioned on Instagram I mistakenly used 3 grams of leaf in my cupping set. The standard measure is 2 grams of leaf (steeped for 3 minutes). I corrected the situation; I measured out 2 grams for my second cupping set. Another error on my part was using 195F water; this tea called for 203F. With my instructor I completed one infusion. On my own I infused the leaves two times more. Here I share the notes from the first infusion.

The dry leaf smelled like the stems of herbs, fruity, sweet and even of brioche. The tea was a mix of buds and light and dark brown leaves. The leaf was processed in the orthodox style but the grade was broken orange pekoe. The infused leaves carried the smell of baked goods. Additional aromas were of raisins and almond skin. Floral notes emerged from the cooled leaves.

The 3 gram infusion was a red copper color which contrasted with the amber liquid from the 2 gram infusion. The level of astringency was also different between the two cups. The 3 gram liquor was noticeable more astringent but it was not unpleasant. Both gram weights yielded a flowery flavor almost like a perfume. Fruit notes emerged more forcefully as the liquors cooled.

The 2 gram liquor did not exhibit an aftertaste. Woody and malty notes lingered from the 3 gram infusion. This leaf weight yielded a more full bolded tea. After the teas had cooled off significantly, I noted that the 2 gram tea could be drunk on its own or served with light foods. On the other hand, the 3 gram tea would be better served with (richer) food. My takeaway from this cupping is not a surprising one: a tea can be lighter or bolder in flavor depending on the gram weight.

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