What is a flush?
First, it’s not a hand of playing cards where all the cards are of the same suit. It’s also not a flock of birds, and it certainly is not a lot more money than you usually have. And it REALLY doesn’t have anything to do with toilets!
So… A better question is… how is a tea flush related to Darjeeling teas?
The term “tea flush” refers to the various seasons in which tea grows in Darjeeling, the state in West Bengal, India. This region bumps up against the Tibetan Himalaya’s and stretches between high mountain ridges and deep mountain valleys. The challenging geography, climate and rough, sometimes inaccessible terrain, are what makes teas from this region, so exclusive. In Darjeeling, the harvest season is greatly affected by these challenges, which lead to different growth times and duration for the tea-plant leaves.
The term tea flush…
Started in Darjeeling, in the mid-19th century when British estate agents realized how the distinctly altered chemical composition of the leaves picked from the tea-plant, were influenced by altering climatic seasons. Weather plays an important part in the growth cycle of all teas and that is especially true regarding Darjeeling teas. Darjeeling is sometimes referred to as the “Land of the Thunderbolt,” and sitting at the feet of the Himalayas, the storms that roll across the region play an integral part in the growing cycle of the tea plant. The harvest season greatly depends on the weather as well as other natural elements such as the soil, sun, etc. (The concept of terrior)
Darjeeling Black Tea Flushes
Darjeeling tea is harvested four times around the year. Each harvest (flush) has different characteristics that affect the color and flavor of the tea. BUT, no matter which flush a Darjeeling tea comes from, each batch of fresh leaves will be different. Darjeeling leaves are processed…withered, rolled, oxidized…in a technique that reflects the conditions of the season and of the plucked leaf. So, no batch of Darjeeling will ever be the same.
- The First Flush is the picking of the brand new two leaves and a bud in the earliest spring growth of the plant, as early as February and often lasting through April. These early leaves are usually more delicate and tender and therefore more light, floral, fresh, brisk, and astringent in flavor. To preserve the spring leaf flavor, First Flush Darjeeling teas are generally less oxidized during processing and may appear more greenish in color than a typical black tea. Darjeeling First Flush tea is some of the most prized and expensive on the market. It is so special and exclusive that tea connoisseurs consider the first harvest from this region to be the “Champagne” of teas.
- The Second Flush is picked as early as April and runs through May or June. Second Flush yields larger, more mature leaves with a purplish hue and silver tips or leaf buds. The leaf growth during this period is much more rapid than the early spring growth. These larger, fast-growing leaves yield a stronger yet smoother flavor for the finished tea. Teas from this flush are known for their full-bodied, muscatel, and fruity flavor.
- The Monsoon Flush runs from June or July through October and yields large leaves that brew into a stronger color and bolder flavor that is less complex or nuanced than the previous flushes. Teas from this flush are often used for iced tea and commercial tea bag tea production.
- The Autumnal Flush happens in October and November and yields a finished tea with a rich copper-colored liquor that can be described as rich, full, nutty, and smooth in flavor. Leaf growth slows down during this period and the tea-plant is squeezing out the last of what it has to offer before it goes dormant for the winter
- NOTE: These time periods are not fixed, and it depends on the weather patterns in Darjeeling. Excess rainfall earlier than expected can reduce the timeline of a second flush while increasing the rain flush by few weeks and vice versa.
So, there you have it…
Now, when someone talks about flushes, or when you are “tea shopping” and you see a First Flush Darjeeling, you’ll know it has nothing to do with toilets!
Next… Feng Huang Dan Cong Tea