Posted by: ben | August 17, 2009

darlin’ companion

(title with loving apologies to Johnny Cash. yep, that’s another spotify link.)

Ben: I try not to mention my lovely fiancé too much here – she’s not a willing participant in our brew-and-music fest (as her cupboard of PG Tips and collection of late nineties boyband CDs will testify) – but sometimes I inevitably have to.

This is such an occasion.

Having just started a new job, she wearily asked me to make her a cup of tea one evening. If I was making ‘one of your teas’, I wasn’t allowed to make her something ‘weird’ (not allowed, y’hear?). Rummaging through the cupboard looking for something other than my beloved Golden Monkey (which she’s been thieving with alarming regularity), I found Lahloo’s sample of Darjeeling second flush. A non-threatening black? Sounds ideal!

I have a wee confession to make: despite Dan and I founding teatunes over six months ago (how time flies!) and regularly drinking Twinings bagged version over the last year, I’ve never had looseleaf Darjeeling tea. Never.

(Jeez. No-one will ever take us seriously as a proper, well-respected tea site if we keep saying things like this.)

Crunchy, crispy, lovely leaves

Crunchy, crispy, lovely leaves

I think this is our first proper discussion of Darjeeling on the site too. As is tradition, let’s have a brief introduction to the variety (i.e. let’s crib information from Wikipedia and dumb it down to our level). Darjeeling is named after the northeastern area of India with the same name, first grown during the middle of the 19th century when the British Empire was trying to be less dependent on China for their tea. It’s regarded as a particularly good black tea and will be referred to in almost any accompanying literature as the champagne of teas. The tea varies depending on when it’s picked – this example is a second flush, which means it is harvested in June. It’s not as sappy as it’s younger sibling whilst still having quite a delicate flavour.

Lahloo puts this a little better, helpfully saying:

The most delicate and succulent ‘second flush’ leaves are plucked in June and July when the bushes are bursting with flavour from the changing seasons of the Himalayas – alternating summer sun, mists and warm rains.

I like the idea of Darjeeling tea – unlike, say, Earl Grey or English Breakfast, by it’s very name this variety is steeped in history and geography. It’s evocative of international trading and clipper boats and the bloody Himalayas. As much as I love Golden Monkey (and I do), I don’t sip it and think, wow, this came from the Himalayas.

Whereas this tea comes from the Himalayas!

(I kinda spoilt the serious, respectable tone I had going there, didn’t I?)

Cutting open the wee packet the sample gave a shock – the smell of the dry leaves was incredibly sweet. Kinda reminiscent of those sweet sugared peanuts you occasionally get on the continent – not headache-inducingy sugary but sweet and caramelly. Oooh! The leaves look like proper leaves too – uneven colour and varying size.

Things look good so far.

Here we see Ben punishing them by using a teaball

Yes yes, ball infuser rather than teapot. I am rubbish.

I followed Lahloo’s instruction to the letter – brewed for three minutes using boiling water and took it in the traditional way, ‘without milk but with a sugar lump.’ I was a bit reluctant to do this – I’ve only just managed to wean myself off of drinking teabag tea with sugar and milk and this would be a step back. But, y’know, we have to do this properly.

(The fiancé had hers with milk, no sugar. I offered her a sip of mine but she grimaced at the possibility of sugar in tea. I pointed out ‘the traditional way’ thing – she finally relented and took a sip. She didn’t like the sugar.)

But enough of her! What did I think?

I adore it. It’s slightly sweet (unsurprisingly) but it’s so creamy! It has a lovely full feeling in the mouth, so round and full that even once the tea’s left the mouth that rich silkiness still remains. It’s almost as if Mr PG Tips said, ‘enough with the normal strong fare! Let’s make something lighter and delicate that’ll appeal to the same crowd.’ It’s so utterly drinkable – I know I should savour it but I struggle not to slosh it back with abandon. It brews so lightly and tastes so delicate that you’re tempted to disregard it as too prissy but it’s just a great tea. A properly great tea.

This is *not* seaweed. I hope no tea newbies are looking at this one.

These are the leaves after brewing. This is IMPORTANT. Proper tea blogs show this stuff.

The fiancé made the observation that it’s halfway between Golden Monkey and Earl Grey.  It’s a good observation – it has the same full mouthfeel of the former whilst also having the lightness of the latter. Astonishingly, it’s another tea we both really like, one that we can share after a long day at work.

The blog’s first Darjeeling. Hopefully the first of many!

Ben was drinking Lahloo Tea’s second flush Darjeeling, available through their website for £6 from 50g. Well worth it!


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