In the following Q&A, Kaushal Dugar of DarjeelingTeaXpress answers common questions about tea flushes in Darjeeling, India.
What is a tea flush?
Tea flush refers to the tea growing seasons (certain time periods) in Darjeeling.
What are the major tea flushes grown and harvested in Darjeeling?
Darjeeling has altogether three major flushes as follows:
- First Flush from mid-March to May
- Second Flush from June to mid-August
- Third Flush (Autumn Flush) from October to November
However, there are two minor flushes as well:
- In-Between Flush for two weeks in-between the first and second flushes
- Rains/Monsoon Flush between the second and third flushes during the month of September
It should be noted that the time periods are not fixed and it depends on the weather patterns in Darjeeling. Excess rainfall earlier than expected can reduce the timeline of a second flush while increasing the rain flush by few weeks and vice versa.
What kinds of flavors can I expect from each Darjeeling tea flush?
Darjeeling First Flush Tea - The color of the tea is light and clear with bright liquor. The leaves have a floral scent, with a lively character.
Darjeeling Second Flush Tea - The tea has a dark color and strong flavor in contrast to first flush teas. The tea leaves have purplish bloom and has a fruity taste generally. To explain further, tea has amber hue and taste is mostly muscatel grape flavor caused due to the tea plant reacting to small insects that suck juices from the stems.
Darjeeling Third Flush Tea - The tea colour is dark or coppery and texture is full bodied but it has a lighter flavour. Autumn Darjeeling has a delicate as well as a sparkling character.
Which flush is the most expensive? Why?
Generally speaking, first flush teas are considered more expensive due to its bright liquor and a lively character.
First flush teas are produced in less quantity and hence the demand outstrips the supply. However, it should be noted that Darjeeling tea connoisseurs generally have a specific preference for either first or second flush and do not mind paying premium for good cup of tea.
What makes Darjeeling second flush tea so unique? How does it get its muscatel flavor?
Darjeeling second flush is so unique because it clearly brings the unique muscatel flavor Darjeeling is known for as no other tea in the world is able to bring such unique flavor. The unique muscatel flavor is caused due to the combination of unique weather, topography and plant types. Scientists from Tocklai Experimental Station (TES) of the Tea Research Association (TRA) in Upper Assam and Japan's Kyoto University (molecular mechanism experts) have identified the genes in the plants that only express themselves after bring infested by the insects -- that leads to the creation of the unique flavour and the tarpins (geraniol and lunalook) enrich the aroma.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about the seasonality of Darjeeling tea?
The seasonality of Darjeeling tea i.e., the various flushes bring out different flavor from the tea that is picked from the same plants during different times of the year.
Though no season/flushes are the same, hence during first flush you can get golden colour liquor and that same leaves would give dark brown liquor during the second flush. Such tastes can satisfy the pallets of various tea drinkers effectively.