The Art Of Darjeeling Tea Tasting
There are many ways to indulge in the good life, but none is as easy and particularly luscious as curling up on the couch with a good book and taking your time with a freshly brewed pot of tea. Even better, a pot of the best Darjeeling, affectionally known as the “king of black teas”.
In short, fine tea is like a blend of solace and luxury in a cup. And the good thing is that while the finest harvests are by nature a rarity, getting your hands on some of the finest teas is as simple as making a trip to a TWG Tea Salon & Boutique. Granted, you don’t need a special reason or a specific season, but one of the best times to splurge on a uniquely precious brew is in spring, when premium teas are harvested, and when you can savour gems such as the limited-edition Darjeeling Nouveau from the TWG Tea’s Haute Couture Tea Collection.
Dubbed the first flush, which is essentially the first harvest of spring, this delicate yet complex expression of this tea variety is highly coveted, particularly those from plantations located in the northeast region of India in West Bengal, up in the foothills of the Himalayan Plateaus. This unique setting, located as high as 2,000 metres, also boasts an advantageous microclimate, where abundant sunshine meets the cold Himalayan air. Boosted by an equally distinctive soil type, tea grown in these areas and altitude is exceptional in taste and quality, merits that TWG Tea preserves by ensuring that the leaves are hand-picked and dried using only traditional methods.
This meticulous process also helps safeguard a high percentage of downy silver tips, and, as such allows the prized characteristics of the tea to shine. Feted for its outstanding notes of ripe fruits and nuts with a lingering aftertaste of freshly cut grass, this light-coloured infusion’s more distinct qualities include elegantly sweet notes that are balanced by mild tannins and a floral aroma.
How To Get A Perfect Brew
In light of the Darjeeling Nouveau’s refined qualities, learning how to fully appreciate the tea’s nuanced characteristics begins with knowing how to brew it right. It’s not a difficult skill to pick up but working with the right pots and cups is a huge plus.
For instance, aside from discerning the taste and aroma of the infusion, you will also want to inspect the drink’s clarity and colour, and something as simple as a white porcelain cup allows you to do just that with ease and accuracy. When tasting the tea, look for the depth of flavour, then taste for briskness, strength and aroma.
(Related: The Story Behind TWG Tea's Collector Tea Tins)
That being said, you will want to start with quality water, preferably free from chlorine and with a neutral pH level. And aim for a balanced taste—flavourful but not too astringent—which you can fix by adjusting the brewing time. It’s a bit like shopping for a new new suit—whether you prefer a single or double-breasted suit or a particular pattern, you’d want to start with a comfortable fit and quality fabric.
Speaking of exercising good taste, TWG Tea’s co-founder and director of corporate communications Maranda Barnes believes time is also of the essence. “The very first Darjeeling spring harvests are internationally sought-after and mostly appreciated immediately after harvest,” she shares, adding how this is a good time to enjoy the complexity of its nuanced flavour, as the character of tea emboldens with time.
The brand’s tasters have sampled far and wide to curate a selection of exquisite first flush Darjeeling harvests flown directly from the Himalayan plateaus, available in limited quantities at all TWG Tea salons and boutiques in Singapore, or at TWGTea.com.