While this has easily been the worst summer of my life, there was an anniversary of sorts. One I had completely forgotten about until I received an e-mail from Vivek Lochan of Lochan Tea. It read: “In continuing with tradition, a sample of the 2015 Castelton Moonlight has been sent to you yesterday by courier.”
Whoah! I thought. Just a few days prior, I’d wondered how I was going to acquire some of that tea this year. For those that don’t know, Castleton Moonlight, second flush, is my absolute favorite tea. Of all time. I first fell in love with it in 2011. And I’ve made it a point to get a hold of it every year since. It’s an oolong from the Darjeeling tea estate dubbed Castleton. I did a full write-up on my history with that tea for the Lochans, which can be found HERE.
If I did get a hold of it, that would mark my fifth anniversary with said tea.
They were curious how this year’s stacked up against last year’s offering. And, truth be told, I was morbidly curious as well. Teas and tea types tend to growing season to growing season. Influences like weather, processing, and quality of the terroir all play a part, and all factors are never completely consistent year-to-year. From what I heard, Darjeeling second flush teas had a late start this year due to weather conditions.
I received the package a week later, and immediately tore into it. Keep in mind, this was at 6PM. Well beyond my usual “black tea” hour.
When I opened the bag for the 2015 stuff, it was like my nose was magnetically drawn to it. This had a markedly different scent than 2014, which stayed on the side of floral. This was spicy! Even a step beyond the normal first flush spicy. Usually, that Darjeeling spiciness didn’t show up as strongly in the second flush – to be replaced, instead, with that whole “muscatel” thing. Nope, this was straight basil-blended-cheese-powder spicy. Sure, the usual floral aromatics were there, but spice won out.
The appearance of the leaves also differed from the 2014.
While the prior year was greener and tippier than the average Darjeeling, this year’s leaves were browner, longer and twisty . . . -er. It’s like the Castleton estate had changed up their rolling technique. There were still some lighter-colored leaves in the fray, but the browns clearly dominated, giving it a more traditional pekoe appearance.
Fully brewed, both years looked exactly the same. Both liquors were a bright, medium amber – no deviation there.
The differences emerged once I sniffed. The 2014 smelled distinctly “oolong”-y – sweet on the nose – whereas the 2015 was maltier with more notes of nuts and wood. Those same differences also showed up in taste. The floral profile of the 2014 (with a sweet bend) was still in full effect, and the 2015 . . .
Well, sometimes I’ve wondered if mahogany might have a metaphoric taste. No, not by licking a desk, but a taste that embodies mahogany. That was the 2015 to me. It was a totally different tea; burlier, slightly more astringent, but still possessing some of the same layers as last year’s. There was even a layer of “burnt firewood” in the top note, which I found particularly appealing.
Now, the key question: Which one did I like better?
This is a first folks . . . I haven’t a clue. I’m quite partial to the more oolong-y profile of 2014, but the 2015 had a richer profile overall. So, in the meantime . . . color me quizzical. These year-off siblings are tied. Different shades of perfection. Yet again.
This summer needed a little taste of perfect.