NaNoTeaMo, Day 21: “Getting Tea Drunk on Giddapahar”
The Giddapahar tea estate rests near the center of the Kurseong Valley. The name translates to “Eagle’s Cliff”. While still considered high altitude in most respects, it represents one of the lower altitude gardens in that region. One of the most unique aspects of the estate is its size. Compared to many other Darjeeling ops, it’s rather small – 110 hectares total, 90% of which are covered in tea plants. Most of the bushes they use are small leaf Chinese cultivars.
Luckily, the garden had a website for me to look all this up. How many tea estates actually have a website? Not many, I’ve found – unless they’re huge. Granted, the site needs a lot of work. It was apparently made in 2013, but looks like it was rendered in 2003. Plus, there’s weird New Age music playing in the background. It’s eerily soothing. Those nitpicks aside, though, “A” for effort.
In 2009, the first Darjeeling tea I ever labeled as “PERFECT!” was Giddapahar Musk. It had all the strengths of a Darjeeling second flush, and none of the weaknesses. I called it “liquid Midas”. Funny thing, though. In the six years since, I hadn’t revisited later iterations of that same tea. Lochan Tea finally gave me such an opportunity. Along with two other Giddapahar offerings.
A quick warning before I start in on the taster notes: Usually, with these blog posts featuring multiple teas, I sample them over the course of a week – not in one sitting. Well, not the case here, I did them all in one go. In the rare cases when I do that, I try to edit down some of my more . . . colorful flights of narrative fancy. Reason being, I’m usually too tea drunk to make a lot of sense by the end of the session.
Well, this time I chose to leave everything in. Enjoy . . . I guess.
For brewing, I approached all these teas the same way. Notes from various vendors recommended treating them with a light touch, given their altitude and misty growing climate. They were used to water at about 190F – tops. So, that’s the route I went, water just under a boil. I steeped a teaspoon of each tea – in a 6oz. gaiwan – for three minutes.
AV2 Clonal – Handmade, Hand Rolled – First Flush 2015
I remember trying a version of this from 2013 first flush, and found it quite majestic. I noted at the time how the leaves looked much wilder and fuller than other Darjeelings produced. All of this was mainly due to the fact that it was hand-handled – as the name suggests.
This year’s looked and smelled exactly the same as that past batch. The leaves were green-to-brown, but had a wilder, more free appearance. The cuttings were more complete, and looked more . . . well . . . leafy. If I were looking at it blind, I would’ve thought I beheld a Taiwanese green tea.
Only the aroma would’ve betrayed its first flush Darjeeling roots. The fragrance of spice, nuts and flowers plumed from the bag once opened. It wasn’t quite as “young”-smelling as other first flushes, nor as plumy in its spice aroma, but the character was there.
Brewed up, the liquor colored to a shiny gold. So lovely; made me feel all majestic just looking at it. The aroma was all flowers – like lotus blossoms dipped in masala spices. (Wow, that sounds really good right now.) At the top note, or in the middle – hell, whatever you call that midpoint in the sip – there was a bold feeling of citrus. Not sure which citrus fruit, but it was there, particularly toward the back of my palate. The finish tickled a little, but left nary a trace of its presence, save for a lingering memory.
Huh . . . that last sentence was actually rather poetic. Yeah, go me! Maybe doing three of these in a row wasn’t such a bad idea. My writing is staying on fleek. Wait . . . did I just use “on fleek” in a blog?
Unlike the handmade AV2 Clonal, this was a more traditional first flush – both in sight and smell. Upon opening the bag, I was bombarded with the floral, spicy aroma from the spry – mostly green – leaves. Like a newborn kitten, it pounced my nose with its pungency. The leaves themselves were typical in appearance, mostly green cut leaves and the occasional bud. Its youth was obvious; this was plucked and processed a whole month before the AV2 Clonal.
Once fully infused, the liquor took on a spry amber palette with an aroma of straight spice flowers. Very much in line with a lot of first flushes of its ilk. Where it differed slightly was in its presentation. I don’t know if it’s just 2015’s batches in particular, or just certain garden terroirs, but a few Darjeelings have been taking on hoppy notes. Earlier this year, I ran into an Arya estate second flush with similar notes. Notes of . . . beer; specifically, India Pale Ale. I was reminded of that here as well, too, only with that whole kitten-clawing first flush youthful exuberance.
Kitten-clawing? That’s not complimentary. How did that get in there? I meant to say, it was really good to drink its youth? No, that sounds supervillainy. Man, my head feels fuzzy.
And I just realized I’ve left the Giddapahar website’s New Age music playing this entire time. It’s been an hour. Really starting to dig it.
And, now, on to the one I’ve been waiting to revisit. Okay, I cheated a little before this write-up. I’ve had several cups of it, but never for discernment – just for deliciousness.
The leaves were way different than the first flushes. They were full-on, black tea brown – no greens in the bouquet to speak of. Added to that, the leaf aroma was also more robust, chestnutty, and oddly creamier. Unlike some second flushes, this made no attempt to hide that it was a black tea through and through. But was it the perfection I remembered?
I didn’t even bother writing what the stuff looked like first, I just went straight for the sip. (After taking a super-purty photograph of it first. Of course.)
Poor impulse control reaction: “MmmmmMMMMM-hmmm-hmmm-hmmmmYummmmm.”
Yep, sounded exactly like that, but back to the logistics.
Oh god, where to start? Oh yeah – color! This infused to an even copper red as if to say loudly and proudly, “I’m a black tea, dammit! And you will love it!” I say that because Darjeelings – while still dubbed a black tea – tend to operate in this gray area of consideration. The leaves are still green, the liquors are lighter, and it confuses the hell out of us tea drinkers sometimes. Not so with this second flush.
The color was dark, and the smell was similarly dark. If mahogany desks had a smell, it would be this. Okay, I guess they may have a smell, but I’ve never tried to put my nose to a desk. At least, not lately. There were notes of wood, acorns, caramel, and – well – musk. Yeah, straight-up musk smell was in here.
The taste was just as perfect as I remembered. All that was found in the aroma translated to the sipping experience, note for note. It was like a globe-trotting Keemun that came back wearing a sari. The best part? It was as smooth as it was bold and burly.
[Looks back at his notes.]
Wow, this went way off-kilter very quickly. I should trim this. Some of it is kind of embarrassing.
Nah . . .
That Giddapahar website music is still playing. It’s been two hours, now. I still really dig it.