Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Harney & Sons
This beautiful estate is set off to the side, away from most other Darjeeling estates, and this discreet locale aptly suits the owners of Gielle. They do what they think is best – in particular, to use the old “Chinese” tea bushes and to make an older style First Flush Darjeeling. Our tea mentor, Bernd Wulf, helped to develop this older style back in the 1960s. It was less oxidized than the Darjeelings of that time, thus lighter and greener, yet still with enough body to handle milk and sugar. Bernd was the father of our tea supplier Marcus Wulf – a cornerstone of our Tradition of Tea that ensures you excellent tea, produced and sourced with great care over generations.
Learn more about this tea here.
I should probably say upfront that first flush Darjeeling is one of my favourite varieties of black tea, so this one is preaching to the converted with me. The dry leaf itself is a thing of beauty – light and medium green leaves, and some downy silver-white buds. They’re a little twisted, and of about 1-2cm in length. The scent is mildly grapey with hints of stone fruit. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium golden-orange.
To taste, it’s pretty much perfection. The main flavour I can discern is dried apricot – quite rich and fruity. It lingers beautifully right until the end of the sip. There’s a very light hint of muscatel grape, which develops primarily at the end of the sip and in the aftertaste, and something that’s reminding me just a little of frangipane – a sort of nutty, almondy sweetness. It pairs beautifully with the apricot. There’s the slightest touch of what I can only describe as briskness – not bitterness or astringency, but a slight sharpness that takes this tea to a whole new level. It seems to enhance the grape notes a little, cutting through the initial rich sweetness. Certainly no bad thing!
This is a fine example of a first flush Darjeeling – clean-tasting, and beautifully light and delicate. Each one I’ve tried seems to have a slightly different character, and drinking this cup has been another pleasant experience. I’d not hesitate to recommend it to Darjeeling fans.
I still have a deep rooted (and probably life-long) preference for black tea. My all-time favourite is Assam, but Ceylon and Darjeeling also occupy a place in my heart. Flavoured black tea can be a beautiful thing, and I like a good chai latte in the winter.
I also drink a lot of rooibos/honeybush tea, particularly on an evening. Sometimes they're the best dessert replacements, too. White teas are a staple in summer -- their lightness and delicate nature is something I can always appreciate on a hot day.
I'm still warming up to green teas and oolongs. I don't think they'll ever be my favourites, with a few rare exceptions, but I don't hate them anymore. My experience of these teas is still very much a work-in-progress. I'm also beginning to explore pu'erh, both ripened and raw. That's my latest challenge!
I'm still searching for the perfect fruit tea. One without hibiscus. That actually tastes of fruit.