Springtime Buds include Darjeeling First-Flush Tea

Every spring bud holds a promise.

And this is true of tea plants as well, for the tea-budfirst buds that begin to open in spring constitute the first flush or “spring” harvest—especially vital in places like Darjeeling, where the first-flush teas command the highest prices.

Tea plucking in Darjeeling began a couple weeks ago with “only reluctant support from workers” (Bolton 2018).

Many had not yet received the 19.75% bonus for 2016–2017 that they had been promised back in September (Gazmer 2018), following a months-long strike that shut down the tea gardens. The Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labourers’ Union, which had been threatening to stop the harvest, eventually said that plucking could take place in those gardens “that will give written assurance to pay the remaining bonus within a time frame” (Gazmer 2018).

leaves-webThis is not trivial—to the workers whose livelihood this is, or to the tea industry in Darjeeling, as this first plucking brings in 35% of the year’s profits; last year’s strike meant a loss of around $61.6 million (Bolton 2018).

Plus, Nepal growers are only too ready to step in, offering comparable tea at a far lower cost (see my earlier post on Nepali teas).

The first harvest runs through April, with generally over 18 million pounds of tea produced! Two to three weeks after the first-flush harvest has ended, the second-flush plucking will begin.
Shown above is first-flush Steinthal, with dark green and brownish leaves. (Steinthal is one of the oldest tea gardens in Darjeeling.)leaves-in-basket-web

While black teas are usually brewed for several minutes, a first-flush Darjeeling is brewed for a shorter time because its leaves are more delicate, being the bud and tender new leaves.

The green of the leaves becomes more pronounced during brewing, with the brewed leaves ranging from celery to dark green, and definitely looking more like green tea than black.

With a crisp and slightly grassy aroma, the liquor of Steinthal Darjeeling is a bit nutty but more astringent—as any good first flush should be. spring-montage-web

Springtime buds . . .
the promise of blossoms,
the promise of beauty,
the promise of harvest. 

–Bolton, D. “Darjeeling first flush experiencing jittery start,” World Tea News, March 13, 2018.
–Gazmer, D. “Union threatens to stop Darjeeling tea first flush pluck,” The Times of India, March 13, 2018.
Darjeeling Steinthal is available at TeaHaus.com.

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