Darjeeling tea drinkers - do you have preferred estates?

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YatraTeaCo
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Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:30 pm

So I advertise here every week, but haven't participated much. I am a lot more active on the tea subreddit. I did notice some talk on Darjeeling teas a while back, so I wanted to post a new topic.

For the Darjeeling aficionados active here, I wanted to ask whether you're partial to particular estates, or are content buying from any one of them?

There is a subset of Darjeeling drinkers I have come across who are partial to a particular harvest (mostly First Flush/Spring productions) but are apathetic to which estate is producing the tea. Then I have encountered the more serious Darjeeling drinker (more serious just by my estimation) who will prefer to buy from only a handful of estates. And then there is another layer, that is partial to the season, particular estates, and within those estates, specific invoices.

Curious to know how you classify yourself if you're a Darjeeling drinker.

Personally, as a relatively new vendor with limited resources ( :cry: ) I have the daunting task to decide on what Darjeelings to source. I am careful about selecting the estates I source from, though I do need to have some leeway when it comes to specific invoices, because I can't always afford to stock the earliest ones. Also, I have found in some cases that the latter invoices present much better value. If I can't offer good value, then selling becomes tricky.

But back to the original question; if you are a Darjeeling tea drinker, do you prefer to buy from certain estates?
gatmcm
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Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:26 am

I am by no means a conossieur, usually get it from a local store so I'm stuck with what they decide to stock each spring come FF time, last year it was monteviot and stendhal, this year it was risheehat.
Best one so far was probably stendhal but I assume my local store doesnt exactly get the best possible material.
So to answer the question I'm happy buying from any of them, mostly due to lack of knowledge and convenience than choice since I only drink about 50-100g of darjeeling per year.
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Victoria
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Thu Sep 13, 2018 2:41 pm

I get my Darjeeling from a tea buddy who works in the industry at ITI here in LA. Salvador has over the past year introduced me to some very good Indian teas, something that I had not explored previously. I’m not an avid drinker and still exploring, but so far my favorite Darjeeling is from Glenburn estate, although I had a very good one from Singbulli also. My favorite so far are the first flush SFTGFOP: Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, and FTGFOP: Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. I really like the champagne like effervescent characteristics of this tea, aromatics, as well as light fruity and slightly astringent profile.
Ethan Kurland
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Thu Sep 13, 2018 8:11 pm

What a difficult market!

I remember when I was first looking for tea seriously, I talked on the telephone with people working at Upton about how hard it was to even choose tiny samples from the pages of choices in Upton's catalog. Difficulty was not just mine; Upton had trouble making recommendations. Your ?, "do you have preferred estates?" may not be very workable. I remember Margaret's Hope having many degrees of quality, many choices, was it the names of gems they used, sapphire, diamond, etc. to denote quality?

The "darjeeling" that I will buy, will come from Nepal from a vendor who knows what I like (for white tea). What he sends me does not always come from the same estate nor even the same part of Nepal. I have stopped buying darker "darjeeling" but have enough for myself for a long time. It is wonderful to be able to rely on someone.

Hopefully, your customers can describe what they want from tea; or, you can describe what your selection provides because as you know, each season is different. Knowing flush & estate may not be enough for enjoyment (but may work for selling). Good luck
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Victoria
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Thu Sep 13, 2018 9:36 pm

Ethan Kurland wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 8:11 pm
What a difficult market!

I remember when I was first looking for tea seriously, I talked on the telephone with people working at Upton about how hard it was to even choose tiny samples from the pages of choices in Upton's catalog. Difficulty was not just mine; Upton had trouble making recommendations. Your ?, "do you have preferred estates?" may not be very workable. I remember Margaret's Hope having many degrees of quality, many choices, was it the names of gems they used, sapphire, diamond, etc. to denote quality?

The "darjeeling" that I will buy, will come from Nepal from a vendor who knows what I like (for white tea). What he sends me does not always come from the same estate nor even the same part of Nepal. I have stopped buying darker "darjeeling" but have enough for myself for a long time. It is wonderful to be able to rely on someone.

Hopefully, your customers can describe what they want from tea; or, you can describe what your selection provides because as you know, each season is different. Knowing flush & estate may not be enough for enjoyment (but may work for selling). Good luck
Interesting, I understood to be named Darjeeling, it needs to come from District of Darjeeling in the State of West Bengal. Even if so, I just read that a surgeon, Archibald Campbell, brought Camellia sinensis seeds from Kumaun, just outside his previous post in Kathmandu, to Darjeeling in 1841. All of these districts fall just below the Eastern Himalayas. It looks like within the family of Darjeeling teas there are many variables ranging from white, green, oolong, to black. I was not aware of this, so many to explore.
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Fri Sep 14, 2018 11:54 am

Victoria, Considering that only 1/3 of tea that is said to be grown in Darjeeling really is grown there, I associate the name with characteristics of tea we expect from the better & best Darjeeling that are, for lack of better words, exclusive, special.... That is, how I am attaching the name darjeeling to premium tea. Darjeeling teabags sold in supermarkets do not come close to tea we discuss. Twinings etc. do not divide their darjeelings into flushes or single estates. I should not digress....

I probably would not like most of the best darjeeling teas, if I got to taste them. Most are too astringent & many have extremely bold flavors that seem suited to waking a soldier to fight rather than suited to relax at home.

The one tea that I have been drinking & selling from Nepal, has flavors of special darjeeling teas but offered almost no astringency common to darjeelings until recently. Time has changed it to be more typically "darjeeling" in my opinion, &, only enjoyable to me when I flash-brew it. This way it now works as a flavorful white tea for me.
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Victoria
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Fri Sep 14, 2018 2:56 pm

Ethan Kurland wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 11:54 am
The one tea that I have been drinking & selling from Nepal, has flavors of special darjeeling teas but offered almost no astringency common to darjeelings until recently. Time has changed it to be more typically "darjeeling" in my opinion, &, only enjoyable to me when I flash-brew it. This way it now works as a flavorful white tea for me.
Ethan, are you saying your Darjeeling have aged and evolved to now include astringency?
Ethan Kurland
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Sat Sep 15, 2018 6:09 pm

My Himalayan Orange tea from Jun Chiyabari has changed. It is stronger. Before astringency was not much of a characteristic unless leaves were steeped for more than 90 seconds. Now steeping for more than 15 seconds produces an astringent cup of tea. Also the tea was more subtle in its variety. Steeping for various amounts of time, could lead to different flavors being highlighted. Now it is either a good array of fairly strong flavors (steeping no more than 10 seconds) or very strong flavors & astringency asserting themselves (steeping 15 seconds or more). I am flash-brewing. Combining 2 infusions for a nice, flavorful, drink of what seems like white tea. I have customers who keep re-ordering this. They like its current boldness & steep for at least 2 minutes.

The leaves that I am using now were purchased more than 4 years ago, maybe. I forget. The one-kilo bag was opened about 6 months ago (I think). I like this HOR as I am drinking it now, but only once or twice a week. 4 years ago, I drank it daily, but I had not found the teas from Taiwan that I really love.
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Excelsior
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Thu Sep 20, 2018 5:39 pm

There are times I wish this was an easy question to answer. Even the same Darjeeling, same estate, same flush, same DJ number, same grade (special finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe), same retailer, will differ in taste depending on the prevailing climate and weather each year. So I go through the same ritual of ordering 10 to 15 or so Darjeeling First Flush teas every year, to find a taste I prefer. I don’t order sample quantities as trying to extract the best taste, takes trial and error, altering the parameters, requiring 3, 4, 5 cups.. The parameters change each year and even the suggested parameters my favorite retailer prints on their packages changes year to year, and will many times be different, according to the estate.

Thant being said, to answer the question, If I had to pick one, Margaret’s Hope Spring Flush, higher DJ number. Maybe between DJ30 and DJ40. Some will prefer the fresher, ,greener taste of a DJ1 or DJ2 tea. I prefer the deeper flavor and slightly more body offered by a mid to late DJ picking of a Spring Flush Darjeeling
YatraTeaCo
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Mon Sep 24, 2018 4:19 pm

Ethan Kurland wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 8:11 pm
What a difficult market!

I remember when I was first looking for tea seriously, I talked on the telephone with people working at Upton about how hard it was to even choose tiny samples from the pages of choices in Upton's catalog. Difficulty was not just mine; Upton had trouble making recommendations. Your ?, "do you have preferred estates?" may not be very workable. I remember Margaret's Hope having many degrees of quality, many choices, was it the names of gems they used, sapphire, diamond, etc. to denote quality?

The "darjeeling" that I will buy, will come from Nepal from a vendor who knows what I like (for white tea). What he sends me does not always come from the same estate nor even the same part of Nepal. I have stopped buying darker "darjeeling" but have enough for myself for a long time. It is wonderful to be able to rely on someone.

Hopefully, your customers can describe what they want from tea; or, you can describe what your selection provides because as you know, each season is different. Knowing flush & estate may not be enough for enjoyment (but may work for selling). Good luck
I'm a little confused when you say your Darjeelings come from Nepal. Sure, there are similarities between the two given the close proximity of the eastern Nepali tea estates to Darjeeling, but from what you're describing, your preference seems to be for Nepali tea.

And I started this thread out of interest, because some of my buyers have VERY specific estates they buy from. There are higher altitude Darjeeling estates, with some of the best microclimes conducive for growing tea. Sure, there is a lot of gimmicky stuff with a variety of descriptors (you mention some of them, I've read words like "Supreme" and "King" to denote supposed higher quality), but for the most part, an FTGFOP or higher grade from a high altitude estate is a good bet.

I agree that knowing estate and flush are not indications of guaranteed enjoyment, but you add grade to that equation, and you should have a good idea of what you're getting into. Will there be differences in depth of flavor, body, and so on? Definitely.

For years, consumers have paid higher prices for Darjeeling branded tea that in fact comes from Nepal. Which is kinda sad, because Nepal produces wonderful Orthodox teas that rival Darjeelings. In fact, my bestseller from last spring was a Nepali tea from Sakhira Estate. If I understand your comment correctly, you mean you get your Darjeeling fix from Nepali teas due to the inherent similarities?

EDIT: I think I better understand your position from your other posts.
Last edited by YatraTeaCo on Mon Sep 24, 2018 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
YatraTeaCo
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Mon Sep 24, 2018 4:22 pm

Excelsior wrote:
Thu Sep 20, 2018 5:39 pm
There are times I wish this was an easy question to answer. Even the same Darjeeling, same estate, same flush, same DJ number, same grade (special finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe), same retailer, will differ in taste depending on the prevailing climate and weather each year. So I go through the same ritual of ordering 10 to 15 or so Darjeeling First Flush teas every year, to find a taste I prefer. I don’t order sample quantities as trying to extract the best taste, takes trial and error, altering the parameters, requiring 3, 4, 5 cups.. The parameters change each year and even the suggested parameters my favorite retailer prints on their packages changes year to year, and will many times be different, according to the estate.

Thant being said, to answer the question, If I had to pick one, Margaret’s Hope Spring Flush, higher DJ number. Maybe between DJ30 and DJ40. Some will prefer the fresher, ,greener taste of a DJ1 or DJ2 tea. I prefer the deeper flavor and slightly more body offered by a mid to late DJ picking of a Spring Flush Darjeeling
Ah I remember having a conversation with you on Steepster about DJ invoices! Good to hear from you - I had pegged you as a Darjeeling connoisseur after our conversation and your extensive tasting of Darjeelings. In fact I had reached the conclusion that perhaps you taste more Darjeeling teas than some vendors (definitely me!).
YatraTeaCo
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Ethan Kurland wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 11:54 am
Victoria, Considering that only 1/3 of tea that is said to be grown in Darjeeling really is grown there, I associate the name with characteristics of tea we expect from the better & best Darjeeling that are, for lack of better words, exclusive, special.... That is, how I am attaching the name darjeeling to premium tea. Darjeeling teabags sold in supermarkets do not come close to tea we discuss. Twinings etc. do not divide their darjeelings into flushes or single estates. I should not digress....

I probably would not like most of the best darjeeling teas, if I got to taste them. Most are too astringent & many have extremely bold flavors that seem suited to waking a soldier to fight rather than suited to relax at home.

The one tea that I have been drinking & selling from Nepal, has flavors of special darjeeling teas but offered almost no astringency common to darjeelings until recently. Time has changed it to be more typically "darjeeling" in my opinion, &, only enjoyable to me when I flash-brew it. This way it now works as a flavorful white tea for me.
This is true - Darjeeling is a protected name that is only applicable to the 87 odd estates in upper West Bengal. But given all the hype ("Champagne of teas"), branding something as Darjeeling instantly allowed for a multifold markup. So Nepal tea was sold as Darjeeling tea. I'm not sure about the 1/3 assertion, but it occurred frequently.

Now that Nepal tea has its own international trademark as of earlier this year, the expectation is there will be a decline in counterfeit Darjeeling tea. Being a landlocked country, most of the Nepal tea will probably still exit the Indian sub-continent through India (Calcutta), but under its own name. Which is great, because Nepali tea is delicious. Some of the estates are still in their infancy, relatively speaking, but they are poised for good things!
YatraTeaCo
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Mon Sep 24, 2018 4:38 pm

Victoria, I've run into this many times as a vendor! Most people associate Darjeeling tea with black tea that produces a muscatel flavor. I don't have the most refined palate, but even the muscatel flavor is pretty elusive and varies widely from estate to estate.

But yes, Darjeeling produces some fabulous teas in addition to the fabled semi-oxidised black tea. White teas and oolongs from the region tend to be expensive, but very high quality with a distinct taste of Darjeeling terroir. Even the greens are clean, high altitude teas, some of which are very nice.

Usually the greens, whites and oolongs are not produced in much volume, because there is a huuge market for semi-oxidised black teas in Germany, Japan, and France and they fetch top $.
Ethan Kurland
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Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:56 pm

The BBC UK website has an article today in their travel section on Maribari Silver Imperial tea grown in Darjeeling. Picked only around midnight it has sold for as much as 1,850 pounds per kilogram. So, the estate, sections of an estate etc. etc. can really matter.

I associate "darjeeling" mostly with a complex array of flavors dominated by muscatel. Definitely makes one think of wine and can be as complex as one of those wines that an enthusiast may discuss for ten minutes.

Cheers
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Excelsior
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Wed Sep 26, 2018 2:22 pm

YatraTeaCo wrote:
Mon Sep 24, 2018 4:22 pm
Excelsior wrote:
Thu Sep 20, 2018 5:39 pm
There are times I wish this was an easy question to answer. Even the same Darjeeling, same estate, same flush, same DJ number, same grade (special finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe), same retailer, will differ in taste depending on the prevailing climate and weather each year. So I go through the same ritual of ordering 10 to 15 or so Darjeeling First Flush teas every year, to find a taste I prefer. I don’t order sample quantities as trying to extract the best taste, takes trial and error, altering the parameters, requiring 3, 4, 5 cups.. The parameters change each year and even the suggested parameters my favorite retailer prints on their packages changes year to year, and will many times be different, according to the estate.

Thant being said, to answer the question, If I had to pick one, Margaret’s Hope Spring Flush, higher DJ number. Maybe between DJ30 and DJ40. Some will prefer the fresher, ,greener taste of a DJ1 or DJ2 tea. I prefer the deeper flavor and slightly more body offered by a mid to late DJ picking of a Spring Flush Darjeeling
Ah I remember having a conversation with you on Steepster about DJ invoices! Good to hear from you - I had pegged you as a Darjeeling connoisseur after our conversation and your extensive tasting of Darjeelings. In fact I had reached the conclusion that perhaps you taste more Darjeeling teas than some vendors (definitely me!).
I’ve been tapering off on drinking Darjeeling tea since it was so hot during the Summer months. Drinking lots of cold brewed Green Rooibos. Now that we are heading into Autumn and Winter, it’s time to finish off all the Darjeeling tea I have before ordering more.

It may not matter now since I’m drinking teas from two years ago but I am enjoying the 2016 Singbuli First Flush. Victoria also had good things to Say about the 2018 Singbuli First Flush. So maybe it’s an estate you might look into when procuring Darjeeling teas for 2019
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