Features 2 minutes 17 May 2018

Tea Appreciation: Tasting The 2018 Darjeeling First Flush

Learn how to infuse and appreciate this rare tea with tips from the TWG Tea Institute.

appreciation tea technique

In 2008, when Maranda Barnes and Taha Bouqdib founded TWG Tea in Singapore, they could hardly have imagined that a short 10 years later, the luxury tea brand would be in 19 countries with over 3,000 employees around the world.

Yet, when you visit a TWG Boutique, whether in Singapore, Portugal or London, you’ll experience the same passion and precision when it comes to preparing your tea. The secret to this consistency is the TWG Institute, the brand’s centre for learning and development, conceived last year by co-founder Barnes.

“As the brand grew, I realised it was essential to create a learning institute with comprehensive workshops focused on key TWG Tea touchpoints such as the brand experience, luxury behaviours and tea connoisseurship,” she shares. “I insisted that all TWG Tea employees spend their first three days in the company in our Brand Experience Workshop as part of their orientation.” This training extends to not just the operations staff but even corporate employees across all departments from sales to human resources.
Tea appreciation at the TWG Tea Institute is an immersive experience.
Tea appreciation at the TWG Tea Institute is an immersive experience.
Located at the company’s headquarters in Singapore, the Tea Institute is outfitted like a classroom with framed photographs displaying the rich history of tea and a wall displaying the full collection of teas at TWG. The room is anchored by four tea preparation stations where participants learn the proper preparation of any variety of tea and partake in tea cupping sessions.

While programmes at the institute are not open to the public yet, Barnes says there are plans in the pipeline for a more extensive curriculum for tea connoisseurs. “We have offered some public courses on tea tasting and tea culture since we launched, which were always very well received by participants.”
The collection of TWG teas on display at the institute.
The collection of TWG teas on display at the institute.
We visit the TWG Tea Institute in time for the arrival of the 2018 Darjeeling First Flush and get a lesson in how to infuse and appreciate this exceptional tea.

What Are Tea Flushes In Darjeeling?

Bumping up against the lofty Himalayan mountain range, the Darjeeling region in the state of West Bengal in India is a verdant terrain that stretches between deep mountain valleys and exceptional altitudes of up to 2,000m. The unique terroir produces some of the most exclusive tea leaves in the world, protected as a geographical indication in the European Union. This means, to be called Darjeeling, the tea must be grown, picked and dried in the Darjeeling area using traditional methods.
Tea leaves are handpicked in the mountainous region of Darjeeling in India.
Tea leaves are handpicked in the mountainous region of Darjeeling in India.
Premium teas such as Darjeeling are often classified by Flush, the time of the year when the tea plant grows new leaves which are then harvested. This happens four times a year during the First Flush, Second Flush, Monsoon Flush and Autumnal Flush.

The First Flush or spring harvest is the first growth of the year after the dormancy period in winter, usually between late February and mid April. Two leaves and a bud are carefully hand-picked from the tea plants to make the Darjeeling First Flush tea, a tea so prized that connoisseurs call it the Champagne of teas.

Darjeeling First Flush Tea Infusion

The ritual of tea tasting is a delicate art form, but not one that is completely unapproachable to the layman. At the TWG Tea Institute, the Brand Experience Workshop teaches the proper preparation of tea and forms the foundation of the programme.
Darjeeling tasting is an integral part of the Tea Connoisseurship programme at the TWG Tea Institute.
Darjeeling tasting is an integral part of the Tea Connoisseurship programme at the TWG Tea Institute.
To brew a Darjeeling First Flush tea:

1. Prepare a teapot that is made of a non-porous material like ceramic, glass or porcelain. Bring water (preferably filtered or spring water that is not too minerally) to a boil and pour it into and around the teapot to warm it up.

2. Weigh out 7g of tea leaves and put it in a cotton tea sock. Empty the teapot quickly and place the sock inside, covering it with a lid. This gently steams the tea leaves and prepares them for brewing.

3. After a minute, pour water that is about 90-95°C into the teapot through the sock and leave, covered, to steep for exactly 3 minutes.

4. Remove the sock from the teapot and serve. Display the infused wet leaves on a plate to appreciate its colour and aromas.
The infused wet leaves displayed.
The infused wet leaves displayed.
Darjeeling First Flush Tasting Notes

Like in coffee appreciation, “cupping” is the term used by professional tea tasters when inspecting the quality, aroma and colour of the infusion, also known as the liquor.
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Using white porcelain cups will allow the colour to be best appreciated. Unlike most black tea, Darjeeling First Flush when infused gives a colour of pale lemon or honey to rich amber (cup on the right).

The liquor has a brightness and liveliness unique to Darjeeling First Flush, yielding a fragrant, floral bouquet with smooth, citrusy notes.
The cup is a light green infusion with woody, mossy flavours of freshly cut grass and green almonds, with a sweet aftertaste of grapes.

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