On October 10th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting delivered me to the Arya Estate, in the Darjeeling area of India. This sample was provided by Lochan Tea Limited. For more information on Lochan Tea Limited, please click here.
According to the Lochan Tea website, the Arya Estate has an altitude that ranges from 900 meters (2,700 feet) to 1,820 meters (5,460 feet) above sea level. Since I began my goal of starting a tea wholesale/retail business, I have tried quite a few Darjeeling teas. Up until recently, I always wondered what was different in the processing of Darjeeling teas that allowed them to be so colorful, yet still be considered a “black” tea. The difference, as I now know, is in the process used to wither the leaves. In the Darjeeling area, they use what is called a “very hard wither” prior to the oxidation process. This “very hard wither” causes the tea leaves to lose over 50% of the moisture content, in contrast to the black teas of Assam and Sri Lanka, where the “medium wither” causes the leaves to lose about 35% of the moisture content. Once the leaves are rolled, crushed, or otherwise prepared for oxidation to begin, there is less moisture in the leaves, thus less substance for oxygen to interact with during oxidation. This is the main difference in the processing of Darjeeling black teas which makes it appear so much differently than the black teas of other regions.
The sample packet has been opened, and a sweet smell of dried fruits, caramel, and cocoa are filling my office. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have the typical wide array of colors characteristic of Darjeeling black teas, ranging from green to dark brown, and every color in between, with an abundance of silver tips. The silver tips have a downy like fuzz covering them. The leaves are all fragments, and there is a moderate amount of crumbs. Considering that this is a sample packet, however, some crumbs are to be expected. There are a few bare stems as well. The leaves have a variety of sizes, and most appear lightly twisted and curled. The aroma is very sweet, with scents of dried fruit, caramel, and cocoa.
The standard method of preparation was used for this sampling. Eighteen ounces (550 ml) of purified spring water were heated to 195°F (90°C). Nine grams of dry tea were placed in a cast-iron tetsubin. The tea was infused for 2 minutes.
The first infusion produced a liquor that was a bright orange-red in color, clear and transparent. There was a moderate amount of particles (tea dust). The aroma was floral and spicy (nutmeg). The body is medium to full, with a mouth filling feel. The taste is floral (jasmine/hyacinth?) and spicy (nutmeg). The finish is sweet, with notes of caramel in the aftertaste.
The second infusion produced a considerably lighter colored brew, leaning more to the orange color. The aroma remains floral and spicy, but lighter. The body is also lighter. The taste remains mostly floral (jasmine), and spicy (nutmeg). The finish is less sweet, and more floral. I am not certain that the third infusion will have an acceptable taste.
The third infusion produced a considerably lighter colored liquor than the second infusion, leaning more to the yellow color with orange tint. The aroma is lighter, but remains floral and spicy. The body and taste are both lighter. The taste is lightly floral and spicy. The aftertaste is very light and floral. Although significantly lighter, I finished the pot. I am not sure if all tea drinkers would find this third infusion to be acceptable, but it got me through the last hour of work.
The infused leaves of this Darjeeling tea range in color from a dull light green to a reddish brown. There is little consistency in the size or shape of the leaves. There are some almost fully intact leaves, but the majority are fragments of various sizes. The smell is floral, and a little sweet. The leaves have the shape and size of the typical Chinese tea bush, which is the common type of tea that thrives in the Darjeeling area.
This Arya Ruby 1st Flush Darjeeling black tea was high quality and unique. The smell of the dry leaves was very enticing. The bright color, floral aroma, and spicy taste of the tea were very enjoyable, and separated it from other Darjeelings that I have had. The aftertaste of caramel was also different from other Darjeelings that many times have more of a honey taste. This tea was a nice “welcome back” to the world of Darjeelings, as I have spent the past month or so focusing on teas from China and Taiwan. By the time I am finished with these samples, I will be very much reacquainted with the Darjeeling area, and I am looking forward to it. Thank you for the opportunity, Lochan family.