|The scissor cutter's art|
Some good news from Darjeeling: The European Union, and hence, the World Trade Organization, has granted Darjeeling status as a Protected Geographical Indication or PGI. This will put an end to fraudulent claims from tea growers in other areas. This is much the same issue that has plagued food and wine producers, with companies from other areas riding on the coattails of highly regarded and well known commodities, while not having the same quality, or just being different. I am personally all for this. I want my Swiss cheese to be from Switzerland ( yes, Virginia, there IS a difference), my French champagne to be from its home. The final product, in wine, cheese and tea is a result of specific factors related to the concept of terroir, the minerals in the soil, the components of the air, the amount of rainfall or cloud cover etc. - all those infinitesimal things that produce that specific food or wine or tea from that area. This PGI protects and enhances and encourages the reputation of growers and producers.
I know this is something that can be argued on either side. I have nothing against Iowa Swiss cheese, as long as it is labelled Swiss type, for instance. For what it is, it is very good. But it is not Emmentaler or Gruyere. Similarly, I don't want tea from Rwanda labelled Darjeeling. It gives people the wrong impression, especially if the quality is poor. We have few enough orthodox tea producers and I think we need to support them, lest we lose them. So I say "Hooray for PGI and Darjeeling"
Which leads me right into today's tea, an Upton's Darjeeling, TM52, Kangra SFTGFOP1 from the Wah Estate in Darjeeling, India. This is a first flush from this spring. The smallish leaves are a mix sliding from green into brown and smell of fruit peels - maybe lemon - and drying vegetation with some orchid in there for good measure. The suggested brew time is 3 minutes with boiling water, but I have done that before with a first flush and it's been awful, so I decided to do 2.5 minutes at about 190.
Lucky me, I was rewarded with a very nice cup, with the aroma of an orchid Oolong, along with a green, vegetative scent. The tea did indeed taste like one of the orchid Oolongs - a natural flavor, not something added. It was smooth and flowery, with an undergirding of Springy greenness and a touch of astringency to perk it up. I would really recommend that if you are brewing first flushes that you treat them more like greens and Oolongs and not like sturdier blacks. It's been my experience that they are almost always much better that way