Darjeeling first flush is a special tea. Following the final plucking in October, the tea plants hibernate during the winter months. As March approaches, they once again become active. The warm sun stimulates the growth of the leaves but at this time of year, the cool temperatures keep the growth rate slow. This first new growth of leaves, after winter's dormancy, is referred to as the 'first flush' of tea leaves. A 'flush' is the term used to describe when the tea plant produces a new growth leaves. These new leaves are full of flavor and this is the ideal time to pluck the classic 'two leaves and a bud'.
Tea plants, like other deciduous plants, if left to grow in the wild state, will continue to mature. The tea leaves, as they mature, become larger and less flavorful and the tea plant becomes ever larger and woody. Indeed, tea plants can grow thirty feet and more in height left unattended. Such a large, established plant is difficult to harvest and its new growth is limited to the most outer reaches of its woody branches.
In contrast, the tea plants in the Poobong Tea Garden are cultivated and maintained at a 'bush' stage. Allowed to grow only three to five feet in height keeps the plants completely manageable and most importantly, stimulates rich full 'flushes' of tender leaves. Plucking the leaves in March, then stimulates the tea plants to begin to produce another flush of leaves. It is in April and May that the second flush
is produced and plucked. During the summer monsoon season there is rapid growth, which results less flavorful leaves. Finally in the drier and cooler fall, a third flush, or autumnal flush
, is plucked. This marks the end of that years growing season as the cold dry winter sets in.
Typical of Darjeeling tea, the leaves are broken into rather uniform, small pieces. The dry leaves are a mixture of black and green pieces. Because of the compact nature of the broken leaves preparing a pot of tea requires using less than full rounded teaspoon measurements. Of course, this can vary depending on one's preference. Once steeped the leaves appear to be more of a brownish green color.
Steeping results in a liquor that is a rich golden amber color. The aroma and the taste both present the classic and unique Darjeeling quality. The scent is mild and somewhat sweet and 'nutty'. These characteristics are also found in the mild taste along with a vegetative hint. The well known Darjeeling astringency is also on the mild side. Actually the astringent quality is a bit more apparent as an 'after taste' that lingers, an enjoyable sensation. This 'bite' or astringency is less pronounced in this first flush tea as compared to the second flush
teas. This tea has a smooth, medium body adding to its lushness. As with all Darjeeling tea, the final flavor is rather complex and attempting to describe the various subtleties is difficult at best.