This 2020 1st Flush Darjeeling tea from the Upper Fagu Tea Estate was plucked just at the classic earliest time for this sub-section of the Darjeeling ‘Hills” this year: mid-March. So this year it is chronologically a perfect example of the genre of specialty, early-spring-plucked black tea. Due to its limited production, the leaf was plucked by the ‘first string’ of tea workers, who have been busy this year carefully harvesting the premium crop of leaf that will be the basis of the season’s (therefore the year’s) economy for the estate.
We are happy to report that we were able to source this very special tea prior to the lockdown in India, that took effect just after this manufacture was completed on the 20th of March…and now this first tea of 2020 is here… This is very exciting! Update: the first shipment sold out on May 18 (in less than three weeks!) and the second shipment arrived in mid-June. That second shipment sold out on Aug 2nd and now this tea is sold out for 2020.
The aroma is slightly dry, and mostly brisk, with hints of fresh hay and the lighter culinary herbs. Its flavor is straightforward and refreshing, but bold on the palate, and it can be somewhat astringent if steeped too long. It is in many ways a quintessential late-season 1st Flush Darjeeling: flavorful and deeply full-bodied, with the penetrating flavor for which 1st Flush Darjeelings are famous. There are influences of nut flavors, especially filberts and brazil nut, stalk celery, roasted root vegetables, and it has a creamy body. There is a smoothness and rich character to the steeped tea that not all 1st Flush teas show. It is a truly delicious addition to whatever our selection of teas ends up being this year!
Our 2020 Upper Fagu Tea Estate 1st Flush Darjeeling selection is from a section of the tea garden that offers a small proportion of classic Darjeeling-developed cultivar tea plants. The yield from this section is low but the tea has excellent flavor. The classic Darjeeling tea season’s weather conditions bring out the best flavor from these tea bushes in the spring. These bushes contribute remarkable depth of flavor to the overall style of the Upper Fagu 1st Flush tea’s preparation.
The somewhat remote Upper Fagu Tea Estate, like its few neighbors, is quite small – especially for a Darjeeling tea estate – but is very highly regarded for its premium leaf.
The estate produces black tea in the classic, more traditional style of Darjeeling.
Forest reserves, rivers and cool Himalaya air contribute to the unique taste of Darjeeling teas that originate in the Teesta Valley, the most northeasterly tea-growing valley of the officially-designated region of Darjeeling. The general altitude in this area is around 3000 feet. This region sits northeast of the majority of the other gardens of the ‘official’ Darjeeling region and just south of Sikkim. We are always amazed that this area is so far west of Lhasa. When we were in Xigaze years ago we could have traveled due south and been in Darjeeling quite directly, by following the western frontier of Bhutan.
Some of the other gardens in this sub-region, from which we have had delicious tea, are Glenburn, Hillton, Namring, Snowview, Runglee Rungliot, and Selimbong. We hope to taste several teas from this valley in Darjeeling East this year, as they tend to be quite good. It seems that the lack of harvesting in 2017 (due to the general strike) served this area well, while it was not a good influence in most of the other sub-regions of Darjeeling.