NaNoTeaMo, Day 16: “Darjeeling Tea Fit for an Emperor”
The Singbulli tea estate has a very old history, like a lot of such Darjeeling gardens. It was established in 1924 by British planters, and then was taken over in 2003 by Jayshree Tea and Industries. The garden resides near the town of Mirik, and teas from there are certified organic.
The name “Singbulli” means “home of the birds”, but when I first heard the name several years ago, I immediately pictured this.
But let’s stay focused here.
To date, I’ve tried several teas from Singbulli. They were all quite good, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them distinctive. For the life of me, I can’t think of one that made me go, Oh yeah! That was a good year. Singbulli teas were just . . . really good Darjeelings. Bu there are a lot of really good Darjeelings.
This year, good ol’ Benoy of Thunderbolt Tea acquired something a little different. Singbulli called it “Emperor”. It was a particular first flush tea (i.e. picked around March or April), and only about forty kilos were produced. Unlike other first flush offerings, the way it was processed was also different. As the profile page describes it, the tea was somewhere in that “fuzzy” area between oolongs and white teas.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, we have another one of those teas. Just like the ones I covered in my still questionable “Moonlight” article. It couldn’t be considered a strict orange pekoe. Ooooooh no! That would be too simple!
So special was this offering that Thunderbolt even did a brew-up video for it.
Sexy, ain’t it? Almost imperially sexy.
Now, it was my turn to give it a go. Although, I must confess I wasn’t dressed particularly emperor-like to properly enjoy it.
I didn’t even do my homework before opening this sucker up. I just cut the bag open and ducked my head in. And – again, for the second time this year – I was greeted with a ton o’ buds.
Like Castleton Moonlight, this was a very budful batch o’ leaves, and said leaf buds were all fuzzy and white tea looking. They were beige-to-green in color with the occasional spare golden tip just for show-off. The aroma they gave off was also very white tea-ish, floral and dry, but not spicy floral – like other first flushes.
For brewing, I approached this like any other Darjeeling. I brought water to just shy of a boil, prepped a teaspoon of leaves in a gaiwan, and then poured water over. After that, I let it steep for three minutes, just for strength’s sake.
At the time and temp I used, I knew something was wrong the moment I did the pour.
The liquor turned out white tea pale. I was expecting a pale-colored tea, but not that pale. It was one of the first times where I went, “That doesn’t look like the video!” And I never do that. Um . . . anymore.
As for the taste, it was very rich, regardless. It imparted a rich, sweet introduction reminding me – of all things – of vanilla-dipped lemon balm. Yes, the herb. This tasted like a lemony herb dipped in vanilla, or blended with a few stray vanilla pods. It was a very pleasant, meringue-y taste with a subtly floral (and still sweet) finish.
But I wasn’t done, yet.
I wanted that bolder yellow liquor I saw in the video. So, for a second round (with the same leaves), I boiled the water completely, and steeped for four minutes!
Definitely a darker brew . . . but only slightly. This was probably due to my leaf amount. It was considerably less than what was in the video. Flavor was about the same as the first, too, but just a tad nuttier. Now, it was a vanilla nut lemon balmy thingy.
In closing, very much a first flush Darjeeling fit for an emperor.
No matter what he wears.
Really light. Are you sure it is due to the amount of leaves?
If you have any of this tea left, try brewing at just under boiling for close to 5 minutes. This is likely the way that Benoy does it in the video because he is using a standard tasting set. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I brew all of my first flush Darjeelings this way and only brew certain second and autumn flush Darjeelings for 3 or 4 minutes.
Thanks! I’ll give that a shot.