Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Tag: Doke Tea

All Four Doke First Flush Teas In One Day

Begin Doke Diary transmission.

I’ve already written about the Doke tea estate in Bihar, India on several occasions. Everyone who reads this blog already knows my leanings toward it. That being, it’s my absolute favorite Indian tea garden. Yes, in all of India.

Photo by Rachiv Lochan.

Photo by Rachiv Lochan.

But out of the countless tea profiles, taster notes, and lapses in narrative judgment, there is one thing I haven’t done. I haven’t had the opportunity to try all four of Doke’s teas from one season, in one year, in one day. That is, until Lochan Tea supplied me with such an opportunity.

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Defining a Doke Tea State of Mind

NaNoTeaMo, Day 6: “Defining a Doke Tea State of Mind”

doke

Doke

/’dōk/

noun

  1. A river located in the state of Bihar, India
  2. The surname of a tea estate in Bihar, India owned and operated by the Lochan family.

verb

  1. To induce a state of mind in a Doke tea drinker, wherein they experience equal parts bliss, resiliency . . . and/or blind, seething rage when denied said brew.

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A Dork Drunk on Doke

Let’s talk a little about terroir.

indeed

It’s a word usually bandied about by wine folks in order to sound “edumacated”. Blame the French. The word “terroir” derives from the French word “terre”, which literally means “land”. Terroir, as a concept, is applied to plants that are influenced by the “land” where they grow. Geology, geography, climate, and other aspects of the biosphere affect what grows in certain ways. And especially in the case of wine, coffee and tea, the taste of said terroir shows up in the finished product.

Tea plants are especially absorbent of their environment. Case in point (as I’ve mentioned in prior articles), Hawaiian teas taste distinctly . . . well . . . tropically Hawaiian. Wuyi cliff teas taste rather . . . uh . . . cliffy. [Credit: Nicole Martin] And teas from the Himalayas take on a grapy bend, for some reason.

Which brings me back to Doke Tea. Yet again.

Doke

Seriously, I think I’ve written about this tea garden more than any other. I can’t help it. Their teas are awesome, the Lochan family is awesome, and I feel awesome when drinking their wares.

Of the four or five types of teas this garden in Bihar, India produces, I’ve noticed a common underlying flavor profile. It’s difficult to describe, and far different from any other Indian tea growing region. Something about the terroir near the Doke River imparts an ever-present, honey-nut-spice taste trifecta. A trinity of taster notes that is especially present in their flagship black tea – Black Fusion.

I have a very interesting relationship with this tea. One would if they’ve written about it three times. After three successive growing seasons. Only now do I realize how wonderful an opportunity that was, to see a tea’s evolution and growth over the course of a year. And in February of this year, Vivek Lochan offered me a chance to try their 2015 first flush Black Fusion.

A slight digression: The journey of this tea to my cup was especially frustrating. I wasn’t at my apartment when the package arrived, so the courier left a note telling me where to pick it up. The next day, I went to fetch it after work . . . two towns away. I made the trek only to find out that they delivered it to my apartment complex’s office.

Well, why the hell didn’t you do that the FIRST time?! I said to myself (but not out loud).

Two months would go by before I dipped into the new batch of Black Fusion. The day I finally decided to brew it up, my Internet died. I needed something to calm me amidst the downtime.

black fusion loose

The leaves were gorgeous – brown-to-black, large, plump, and obviously hand-rolled. The smell was like last year’s various flushes of Black Fusion I tried – equal parts honey-like, malty, nutty and slightly spicy. The Doke terroir was in full effect, and I was pleased to see it again.

I approached it like I would any other Indian first flush tea, with a little bit of a light touch. I used about a teaspoon of leaves. (Although, with how large they were, it was more like a tablespoon.) I put them in a 6oz. steeper cup filled with 200F water, and waited for three minutes.

black fusion brewed

The result was a dark amber liquor with a deep-bodied, honey-nut machismo to the aroma. When I tasted it, I noticed immediately that it was different than last year’s offerings. The introduction was smooth and sultry, like a dark-haired Latina in a silk dress. As I kept it on my tongue, the honey-nut-spice thing it had going came to the forefront, but absent was the usual astringency that followed. That was the puzzling part. There was no astringency, or at least none that I could detect.

I’ve become sort of an expert on the Doke flagship tea, at this point. I even adamantly declared that August 2014’s batch of the tea was my favorite, May was second, and December rounded out third. All were wonderful; all were different. But they all had a rough character to them. This year’s batch was like a distilled whiskey or a matured wine. It was Black Fusion refined – terroir transcendent.

A day or so after I did my solo tasting, I was greeted with a photo posted to my Facebook Wall.

iced Doke

It read: “Iced Black Fusion from Doke in their office in Siliguri, jealous?”

 

Phil “World Tea House” Holmans had visited the Doke Tea Estate with a bunch of other tea folks I knew. Jealous? Oh yes, quite a bit. Those lucky bastitches were sampling Doke teas straight from the terroir! My only reaction to this was to drink. A lot. Not sure if it was my seething jealousy, or my poor impulse control, but I went on a total Doke bender that week.

During a chat session with other tea bloggers (Rachel, Jo, Nicole, Other Nicole, and Chris, respectively), I was hopped up on Doke Silver Needle white tea.

Doke Silver Needle

About three pints of it.

A mere day after that, I prepped my daily travel mug with some Doke Rolling Thunder oolong.

Doke Rolling Thunder

And brewed it at double the usual strength. Coworkers noted that I was a tad off the wall. One girl even said, “I like you like this.” I was too hyper to properly manblush.

I concluded the week taking the last vestiges of my first flush 2015 Black Fusion . . . and blending it with the two 2014s I had in my possession.

spent leaves

Yes, individually, they all tasted differently, but put together . . . magic ensued. It was like the honey-nut-spice terroir was somehow amplified. All the creamy, sweet, spicy, malty, nutty, and majestic aspects coalesced into the ultimate tasting experience. Like I was tasting pure Doke.

Toward the conclusion of this brew-binge, a friend of mine dubbed me a “Doke dork”. I had no rebuttal to that. If I had, I probably would’ve answered like some terroir-spouting wine snob, “I can quit whenever I want.”

I Dream of Doke for a Day

White Tea Week, Day 4: “I Dream of Doke for a Day”

The Doke tea estate is a small garden situated in the northeastern state of Bihar, India. In 1998, Rajiv Lochan – of Lochan Tea – got the best of all retirement presents. His own tea garden to do with as he wished. Best. Retirement. Ever.

Doke

Since then, the li’l-garden-that-could has become one of the more experimental gardens in India. In fact, in conversations with two of the Lochan children, who also work for the garden, talks have emerged of playing around with smoked tea…which always has me excited.

I first heard about this estate when a certain e-“steamed” blog colleague ranted and raved about a Bai Mu Dan-style white tea he discovered. Upon hearing that the region it hailed from was neither in Darjeeling or Assam, my curiosity was already peaked.

Curious George

After making some beggar-eyes at Tea Trade Jackie, I was able to acquire Doke Tea’s 2012 Silver Needle. I found it to be a very serviceable white tea, reminding me quite a bit of a Darjeeling white in overall character. It was somewhat spicy, lightly grassy, with a hint of melon and something else. All in all, rather memorable. As was the Doke Rolling Thunder Oolong.

Fast-forward to 2013, and I began hearing across-the-board praise for the new batch of second flush Doke teas. Particularly, the Silver Needle. The same blog colleague even went so far as to declare it his favorite tea in the history of Ever. (My words, not his.) Doke Tea must’ve had ears against the Internet walls. Before I knew it, there was a package at my door with a sample of the new Silver Needle, as well as Doke’s other wares.

Doke teas

First off, let me say that this tea was a gorgeous site to behold. The Doke Silver Needle of a year ago was nowhere near as refined-looking as this. The rolled leaves were light green, plump, evenly shaped throughout, and possessed the downy hairs associated with its tea type. The aroma was spry, like salted lemons, and possessed something that reminded me of a muscatel Darjeeling by way of a Yunnan Silver Needle white.

IMAG1339

For the first brewing, I went with 1 heaping teaspoon of leaves in a 6oz. gaiwan of 175-ishF water, steeped for three minutes.

The liquor brewed to a very pale yellow with a faint, wilderness/wheaty aroma crossed with melons. On taste, it was all Silver Needle all the way – in the best possible ways. This was even better than most Fujian-made Silver Needles I’d come across. So many things at work on taste: A hint of lemon, melon, grass, leaf, a shot of maple, I don’t even know where to start. It was quite nuanced.

Silver Needle

A second infusion at about 185F turned up a yellow-amber liquor with a bit more vegetal nose. The taste, though, changed quite a bit – picking up some aromatic high-altitude oolong notes. No astringency or spinaching to speak of, though. Like a white peony, only with a bit more…awesome.

I dared a third infusion at just under a boil (190F), per the recommendations of the e-“steamed” tea compatriot. The soup was straight amber, and the nose was…strangely smoky. Oh, dear God, I burnt the tea, I thought. Quite the contrary, actually. This was my favorite steep yet with bold notes of apricot and a distant memory of peaches. Plus, there was a cinnamon-like lean toward the finish.

To that I say…I dunno what to say. Kinda floored here. I got more steeps out of it after that, bringing the tally to five. Each at three minutes or more.

As luck would have it, I found some of the ol’ 2012 Doke Silver Needle second flush in a random tin while looking for an oolong. This gave me a splendid opportunity to taste and compare the two years; see how far the Lochan technique had come in just twelve months.

side-by-side

Visually, the differences in the leave cutting and rolling were night and day. The 2012 leaves were small, pine-like needles – dark green in appearance with a very spry aroma. Whereas 2013 needles were large, plump, downy-furred and brimming with a pungent, melon-like aroma. It made me wonder if Doke HQ changed their cut-‘n-roll techniques or went with a different cultivar.

When brewed, the liquor for the 2012 was considerably darker, more amber-ish, while the 2013 maintained a subtle yellow palette in the cup. Taste-wise, they both conveyed a citrusy, herbaceous and melon-like delivery. The 2013 just tasted more refined, more reassured – perfumy, elegant and vibrant.

Doke liquor

Like I said, night and day. But a perfect day for both.

I can only dream of what 2014 will bring.

EDIT: It would appear the Lochan Tea site is all sold out of the 2013 Doke Silver Needle, but fear not! If you’re in the U.S., you can fetch it at Butiki Teas HERE. And if you want to compare/contrast with the 2012 Doke Silver Needle, you can pick that up at The Devotea USA HERE.

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