Indian/Nepali blacks advice

Oxidized tea
Post Reply
User avatar
wave_code
Posts: 141
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2018 2:10 pm
Location: Germany

Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:04 pm

I know next to nothing about teas from India and Nepal, and while I need another thing to look into like I need a hole in my head, I'm curios. So, some advice/knowledge/correction from others would be greatly appreciated. I've had some of the Jun Chiyabari orange tea and I really liked that and I tend to only see good things about their teas, but I'm curious what else I should look into. It seems like a tricky area to dive into without some suggestions with some teas being blacks, while there is also a lot produced that is technically being closer to oolong or even green depending on processing (though maybe they don't actually categorize it as black then?), and some pretty wide variety of flavors from different regions, estates, picking times, so on...

Someone please correctly me but I get the sense from poking around a little bit that if I tend to enjoy more malty or dark flavors I probably want to look more at trying second flush teas? or maybe autumn? also that Assam might be a better fit over say Darjeeling? do some flushes have better shelf life than others, or maybe even benefit from resting for a bit?

Also I'm clueless about brewing. I'm guessing glass or porcelain is the way to go, but do most of these teas tend to favor what we'd think of as closer to western style brewing (lower leaf, much longer times) to get the best out of it? or somewhere in the middle, more like how you would make sencha?
User avatar
LeoFox
Posts: 26
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 4:01 pm
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:31 pm

This has been my experience with Darjeeling tea:

Most darjeelings appear to have elements of many types of chinese tea from green to white to black to oolong. This is likely due to the uneven oxidation and processing method unique to Darjeeling and makes these teas such a distinctive pleasure.

First flush definitely has more "green characteristics" and often reminds me of a mix between bao zhong, tsui yu, high mountain green oolong and keemun. Elements of white tea are also there from some gardens. I heard that this lighter style was brought about by german vendors favoring brighter "pilsner" style teas in the early 80s, but I never looked into this to confirm the history. This picture is of wet leaves from first flush i brewed recently. It is so green!
Image

Second flush Darjeelings can be more like dark roasted oolong and keemun, but typically with less maltiness than Assam. If they are bug bitten, these teas can exhibit stronger muscatel notes but not the same honey notes found in jassid bitten Taiwan teas.

Third flush or autumn flush Darjeelings have qualities of both first and second flush, but at more mellow and balanced levels. In general, autumn flush teas resemble second flush more than first flush. Sometimes, their aromas resemble gaba roasted oolongs.

I have made multiple attempts at gongfu brewing using 4-5 grams / 100 mL and 85-95 C water with steepings ranging from 15 to 40 seconds. For second flush and third flush Darjeeling teas, all attempts yielded overly astringent or flavorless brews that nonetheless had good aromas.

Gongfu seems to work better for first flush Darjeeling, which is a bit more elegant. However, western brewing is still more satisfying for first flush.

I think western style brewing is able to highlight the magical balance achieved in Darjeeling between black, green, white and oolong tea styles.

For Western, I tend to use 1-1.5 grams / 100 mL 95 C water brewed for 3 to 5.5 minutes. Variation in time and tea to water ratio depends on estate and harvest. Generally,  1 gram / 100 mL for 4 minutes is a good starting parameter. 

I have mainly brewed this in either porcelain or glass pots. I think tokoname can work well too.
Last edited by LeoFox on Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
mbanu
Posts: 124
Joined: Fri May 03, 2019 3:45 pm

Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:50 pm

The confusion is mostly from modern Darjeeling, which is a new type of tea, a black/white tea hybrid caused by the "hard wither" process that arrests oxidation in some of the tea leaves but not others. This goes back to a period of Indian tea history that is not often talked about, after the British had left and when the main buyers for basically all types of Indian tea besides Assam were the Soviets. Darjeeling in particular has a fascinating history because the new style was a collaboration developed between a German tea company (Hamburger Teehandel) and an Indian estate: https://guidetotea.blogspot.com/2008/09 ... lings.html I have always wondered if this new style of Darjeeling was meant for West Germany or if it was being sent into East Germany, but my language skills are not strong enough to find out more about the history of this tea.

Usually if any old-style Darjeeling is made, it is made out of the less valuable Autumn flush, as this tea is usually destined for tea blends.

With First and Second Flush Darjeeling tea fetching good prices, many regions that are not famous for tea and that have gotten by making blending teas for tea packers have tried to make new-style Darjeeling-style teas in hopes of raising their fortunes.

Assam teas and Nilgiri teas will almost always be true black teas. (True high-altitude Niligiri is usually much better than the lowland Nilgiri tea). Kangra Valley is famous for their green teas, although they also produce black teas.
Last edited by mbanu on Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
LeoFox
Posts: 26
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 4:01 pm
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:56 pm

@mbanu
Thank you so much for the historical clarification! I would love to learn more.
User avatar
wave_code
Posts: 141
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2018 2:10 pm
Location: Germany

Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:12 am

thanks both for the advice. I think I have a better idea now of where I should start looking.

interesting about the connection to Hamburg. I don't want to speculate too much on this kind of history given my knowledge of German history isn't great as a non-native, but I wonder if some of its initial introduction could have had to do with British presence after the war? I don't know if it was already popular before then though.

I would imagine any tea coming in to the DRR like coffee would have been brought in from Soviet Russia and pretty poor quality, so any higher end tea that made its way in as a gift from family in the west would probably have been pretty luxurious (as an example see the east german coffee crisis). Also as a rough generalization but it would make sense to me that the profile would have to be adjusted to the German palette. Still here when most people hear tea they think tisane or teas with fruit and herbal flavors or maybe general "green" or "black". But I don't see the general flavor profile here having people go in for stronger and potentially more astringent teas most of the time. The cheap bagged teas I've had here all tend to be more towards the citrus and fruity side rather than being like PG Tips.

If someone wanted to for whatever reason get a taste of some DDR tea though, it is very possible :? https://www.ebay.de/itm/Teehaus-Schwarz ... 2917370663
Post Reply