Friday, May 1, 2009

2009 Margaret's Hope Estate FTGFOP 1 CH (SPL) 1st Flush Darjeeling

One tried a 2007 second flush offering from Margaret's Hope estate a while back and thought it an interesting tea. The write up on Lochan Tea's site on how this estate got its name is worthy of a read. Hopefully the story of this tea isn't as heartwrenching...

The dry leaves seem to contain more chocolate brown coloured leaves and present one with a smell of deep foresty muscatel. Within this, there is a hidden floral sweetness that reminds one of the turning spring.

One mindfully prepares this tea, scooping the leaves out of the foil with bamboo. The sound of the leaves hitting the bottom of the pot further relaxes ones mind. The sound of hot water hitting that same bottom pushes ones mind deeper.

One sips at this tea from little Korean ceramic cups. The first time one brewed this tea using the same perimeters as the other first flushes, it didn't turn out so well. One added less leaf this time. And upon first sip it seems much better. There is a nice full soft coating mouthfeel with very floral taste and backnotes of classic Darjeeling muscatel where last session just held a smokey, bitterness without much taste at all. The colour of the liquor is not so vibrant, a gritty yellow, an 'intoxicated morning after urine' kind of gritty yellow.

The second infusion is good and tastes much like when one brewed it with more leaf but this time there isn't the strong overpowering bitterness. There is still a slight tail of bitterness in the mouth that it is just as noticeable but not as strong. This is a very Darjeeling cup of tea with a nice balance of flower, grape, and muscatel. By the second infusion ones stomach grumbles under the mean energy of this tough tea.

The third infusion is chalky, gritty, and mostly bitter which trumps most of its nice flavor. This tea dies before it even gets going. Unfortunately, less leaf doesn't prevent the inevitable. By the time the third infusion comes along there really isn't much left of this tea.

Nonetheless, one pushes on with this now almost flavorless tea. If anything this tea teaches us to savor what we got while we have it. So when we don't, we'll appreciate it all the more.

This tea would benefit from the old English style of making tea. Its suffering is only agonized by the flogging gong fu session.



Nerval said...

Thank you Matt.
I've been enjoying your Darjeeling series, though I've yet to try any 2009 FF.
Your remarks on gongfucha brewing of black teas sounded very familiar. I often have the impression this technique doesn't do them justice, especially those that are meant to be lighter and more 'elegant'.
And when one uses less leaf as you did, one is tempted to lengthen the infusion time from the beginning. This naturally leads to a single long brewing.

Oh, and "intoxicated morning after urine kind of gritty yellow" surely wins the Tea Descriptor of the Week award!

Best, Nerval

Matt said...


Less leaf, longer infusions is exactly what ended up happening to this one. But the other first flushes did surprisingly well under more traditional shorter gong fu-ings.

When that nasty tea descriptor entered ones head it wasn’t getting out until it was published. Really, there was no better way to describe it.

If you think that is bad, you should hear the language one uses to describe chocolate mousse.


Steven Knoerr said...

Matt: Your lovely photography seemed just a bit more disturbing after the "intoxicated, next-morning urine" imagery. Yikes! As Nerval said, there must be an award for "Most Vivid Yet Strangely Disturbing Tea Description."

I don't typically hear of Darjeeling lovers typically having long, multiple-steeping gongfu sessions. Even when drinking a very high-quality and lovely Darjeeling, I don't typically get far beyond the second steeping.

Because the Indian cultivars were developed with the English tea preparation method in mind, it would make sense that they would best be prepared in that style.

Great to see a serious tea enthusiast studying this year's Darjeelings. So many of my favorite writers focus almost entirely on Chinese teas.

Matt said...

Steven Knoerr,

One also feels that they are probably best brewed in one all deciding steeping. But this kind of tea drinking seems so foreign, so one shot, so rush-rush. Slowing down with some of these first flushes was quite rewarding. One recommends giving it a try if you haven't.

One also agrees with you, the tea bloggers out there seem to regularly ignore these magnificent first flushes. What a pity because they are such good teas, some of the best in the world.

Thanks for your comments and thoughts.


tsultrim topden said...

one man has even a yixing teapot only for firstflust dj ,. : D i used to do two infusion of ff about one dcl each of them ,. thats really amazing tea particullary this year ,.

Matt said...

Tlsultrim Topden,

The best infusions were either 2nd, 3rd, or 4th.

You know that yixing pot sees a lot of different teas in a month ;)