The new shoots (like this one above, snapped by Virginia) popping up in my grove are dummies. Maybe if I googled I’d find out their purpose, but I know these July shoots never amount to anything. The real-deal thrust comes around late September, shortly after the whole grove has turned yellow, has shed leaves alarmingly and looks like it’s going to die.
So, while we wait, a word about tea, and the one that has never disappointed me: the humble autumn flush of Darjeeling. The vibrant first flush, the rich second flush get all the attention and dollars. Don’t mistake me, a Puttabong Estate First Flush is about as good as tea gets – that stuff can be impossibly good – but it tends to lose its airy quality quicker than some green teas, especially if the vendor keeps it loose in unsealed tins. A Makaibari Second Flush reeking of muscatel is nectarous…but too much second flush gives me muscatel fatigue. Plus, when a second flush is low on character it can be a boring, astringent affair: a punishment drink for sophisticates.
The DJ that serves for everyday is the solid, flavourful autumn flush. It’s rounded and grounded, and just about all I’ve tried are good. Stored for a few years, they seem to get a little nicer, if anything. Some, like the sturdy Thurbo Estate, will handle milk and sugar (if you must).
Lastly, when they’re great, the autumn DJs don’t sell for stupendous prices…they simply sell out quickly. This modestly priced Singbulli Estate of autumn ’07 sold out very, very quickly. There’s a reason.